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05th Jan 2022

Black Lives Matter protesters cleared over toppling monument of slave trader Edward Colston

Steve Hopkins

The statue of Edward Colston was rolled into Bristol Harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest

Four protesters have been cleared of causing criminal damage over the toppling of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol.

A jury on Wednesday found Rhian Graham, 30, Jake Skuse, 33, Sage Willoughby, 22, and Milo Ponsford, 26, not guilty following a two-week trial at Bristol Crown Court. The statue of the 17th-century slave merchant was pulled down on 7 June 2020 following a Black Lives Matter march. It was then rolled into Bristol harbour.

Speaking after the verdict, the group said they were “ecstatic and stunned” and “so overwhelmed”.

The group was accused of, “jointly with each other and others unknown and without lawful excuse” damaging property, namely the statue of Edward Colston and a plinth of a value unknown belonging to Bristol City Council.

The charge accused them of “intending to destroy or damage such property or being reckless as to whether such property would be destroyed or damaged”.

The statue was toppled less than two weeks after the murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis.

It was later retrieved by Bristol City Council and put on display at a city centre museum in June last year.

The statue was set to be removed from the museum and put into storage on January 3.

In a statement, Raj Chada, who represented Skuse, said: “The truth is that the defendants should never have been prosecuted.

“It is shameful that Bristol City Council did not take down the statue of slaver Edward Colston that had caused such offence to people in Bristol and equally shameful that they then supported the prosecution of these defendants.”

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