Marvin Rees says that Bristol is “still a city of major inequalities that go across race and class lines”.
Commenting on the protests in the USA, Bristol’s mayor said: “It is counterproductive, of course it is, but it’s also understandable.
“You need to understand it, not necessarily excuse it, but like JFK said back at the time, ‘when you make peaceful protest impossible, you make violent protest inevitable’.”
Rees was talking on BBC Radio 5 Live following the death of George Floyd, and whether the violence used in the subsequent protests across America has been counterproductive.
Breakfast show co-host Nicky Campbell questioned Rees about the global Black Lives Matter movement as well as Bristol’s own racism problems.
Campbell also posed the question whether there were problems of racism within the police in Bristol.
“We have a good leadership within our police force, but we still have a city of major inequalities, those go across race and class lines,” said Rees in response.
“Racism is not just about individual attitudes… racism is about the everyday structural inequalities.”
Rees was also asked whether attitudes were changing in Bristol, a city that Campbell pointed out was built on the profits of the slave trade.
In response, Rees said: “When I was a kid growing up around the streets of Bristol it was physical threats. My childhood was characterised by making concrete decisions about where we did and did not go because of the threat. That’s no longer prevalent.”
The mayor added: “The fact remains that inequalities… are still with us. People are more polite… but inequalities are still with us.”
Several protests in solidarity will be taking place in Bristol over the weekend, with buildings including City Hall and Ashton Gate Stadium lit up in purple on Tuesday evening as part of the worldwide condemnation of the death of George Floyd.
Listen to the interview from two hours and eight minutes into the show: www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000jnc0
Main photo: Bristol City Council