Edward Colston statue: Four in court over toppling of memorial

image copyrightReuters
image captionThe bronze statue was thrown into Bristol Harbour after being pulled down and rolled through the city's streets in June

Four people have denied causing criminal damage after a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down.

Jake Skuse, 36, Rhian Graham, 29, Milo Ponsford, 25, and Sage Willoughby, 21, appeared at Bristol Magistrates' Court earlier.

They were bailed and are next due to appear at Bristol Crown Court on 8 February.

Police arrested four people who ignored warnings not to gather outside the court.

The bronze figure of the slave merchant was pulled down during a Black Lives Matter protest on 7 June.

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Avon and Somerset Police had warned anyone who planned to attend a protest against the prosecutions they would be breaking coronavirus regulations.

Protest organisers had asked people to instead attend a demonstration online, with about 150 people doing so.

Police said "a small number of people" ignored their warnings and they arrested two men, aged 43 and 63, and two women, aged 59 and 60.

Four other people were given formal warnings, the force added.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionPolice asked protesters to join an online demonstration rather than gather outside Bristol Magistrates' Court

After being pulled down during the June rally, the statue of Edward Colston was dumped in Bristol Harbour and recovered by Bristol City Council on 11 June.

The council said the statue, worth £3,750, would be preserved and placed in a museum, along with placards from Black Lives Matter protests.

In September, six people accepted conditional cautions for causing criminal damage to property valued at less than £5,000.

Mr Skuse, of Farley Close; Bristol, Ms Graham, of Colston Road, Bristol; Mr Ponsford, of Bishopstoke, Hampshire; and Mr Willoughby, of Gloucester Road, Bristol, were charged with causing criminal damage in December 2020.

image copyrightDave Betts
image captionThe statue was retrieved from the harbour by Bristol City Council

Colston made his fortune in the slave trade and bequeathed his money to charities in Bristol, which led to many venues, streets and landmarks bearing his name.

Following the toppling of the statue, Colston's Girls School changed its name to Montpelier High School.

The city's Colston Hall music venue is now the Bristol Beacon.

A statue of a Black Lives Matter protester was placed on the empty plinth without permission in July and was removed shortly afterwards.

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