News 5 January 2022

4 People Cleared Of Criminal Damage After Pulling Down Statue Of Slave Trader During BLM Protests

5 January 2022

Four people have been found not guilty of criminal damage after toppling down the statue of slave trader Edward Colston during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol.

Rhian Graham, Jake Skuse, Sage Willoughby and Milo Ponsford were cleared by a jury at Bristol Crown Court today (January 5) following a two-week trial.

During a Black Lives Matter march in Bristol on 7th June 2020, the statue of 17th century slave merchant Edward Colston was pulled down before being rolled into Bristol harbour.

Graham, Ponsford and Willoughby were accused of orchestrating the toppling of the statue while Skuse was accused of encouraging the crowd to throw it in the water. All four admitted involvement but denied their actions were criminal.

After three hours of deliberation, the jury found the four defendants not guilty.

Defence barrister Liam Walker QC, representing Willoughby, said: “Each of these defendants were on the right side of history, and I submit, they were also on the right side of the law.

“Colston’s deeds may be historical but the continued veneration of him in this city was not. The continued veneration of him in a vibrant multicultural city was an act of abuse.”

Talking to the court, Willoughby said he targeted Colston’s statue “because he was a racist and a slave trader who murdered thousands and enslaved even more.

Ponsford told jurors he “thought that a statue that celebrates a figure such as Colston was disgraceful, and offensive to the people of Bristol”, while Graham said she acted out of “allyship and solidarity” with people of colour.

[Image: The Independent via YouTube]