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- British slave trader, merchant, philanthropist and politician
Watch: Four charged over Colston statue damage
Four people have denied committing criminal damage following the toppling of slave trader Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol.
The memorial was torn down during a Black Lives Matter demonstration on 7 June and dumped in the harbour.
Police did not make any arrests when the statue came down, leading to criticism and defence of their approach to the incident – but officers launched an investigation afterwards.
Rhian Graham, 29, Milo Ponsford, 25, Jake Skuse, 36, and Sage Willoughby, 21, are alleged to have damaged the statue and plinth, which belong to the council, with other unknown people.
All but Ponsford, who is from Bishopstoke in Hampshire, are from Bristol. They appeared at Bristol Magistrates’ Court on Monday.
The four defendants pleaded not guilty and the case will now go to Bristol Crown Court on 8 February.
Raj Chada, head of criminal defence at Hodge Jones and Allen solicitors, and Laura O’Brien, associate, 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.”
Two men aged 43 and 68 and two women aged 59 and 60 were arrested at the court.
Avon and Somerset Police had warned people against going there to protest. An online demonstration also took place.
Four people were warned and they left the area, the force added.
A police spokesman said: “In light of the pandemic organisers subsequently urged people to gather online and more than 150 people joined a video call this morning.
“However, a small number of people chose to turn up in person, resulting in officers engaging with them before taking enforcement action when they refused to leave.
“We’d like to once again thank those who dialled into the online event for recognising the gravity of the health crisis we continue to endure.”
Watch: Who was Edward Colston, why was his statue toppled?