Four people who have been charged with criminal damage for the toppling of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston during a Black Lives Matter protest last year have elected for their case to be tried before a jury in the Crown Court.
The statue was pulled down by using ropes and sprayed with graffiti in the wake of the death of George Floyd in the United States. It was subsequently recovered by Bristol City Council saying that it would be kept as a museum piece. The demonstrators say that the statue was removed to stop further disorder and offence to anyone who was affected by George Floyd’s death.
Avon and Somerset police issued a warning to say that anyone intending to protest outside the magistrates court in relation to this case would be breaking the law against gathering of more than two people under lockdown. Inspector Rob Cheeseman said that the police would ‘fully recognise the important right to freedom of expression…but there is a deadly virus which has killed more than 90,000 people in the UK which simply cannot be ignored’’.
A virtual protest took place with some supporters but the protest was interrupted when someone ‘hijacked’ it and digitally scribbled the N-word in red across one of the speaker’s face in (as the reported in the Guardian).
As the video of my speech in solidarity with the #colston4 was playing, some racist hijacked the event and wrote the N-word in red across my face. Racists won’t stop us from the work of anti-racism. They will never stop me from knowing I’m a proud African man and no one’s N! ✊🏾
— Dr Shawn Sobers (@shawnsobers) January 25, 2021
Kei from the group ‘Speaking Statues’ said the Colston statue portrayed history to be ‘free from violence and blood and pain of thousands of black people…this version of history is being dismantled by ordinary people, by anti-racists, by those willing to stand up and tell truth to power. Speaking Statues stand in solidarity with the Colston Four’.
The four people charged have all pleaded not guilty and the next hearing will be at Bristol Crown Court on February 8th. Solicitors Raj Chada and Laura O’Brien of the legal aid firm firm Hodge Jones & Allen Solicitors said: ‘We will fight these criminal charges vigorously on behalf of our clients. We are committed to defending them and their right to a fair trial in this important case. We ask that their privacy is respected.’