Four people are charged with criminal damage after statue of Edward Colston was toppled

Four people have been charged with criminal damage after a statue of Edward Colston was thrown into Bristol Harbour in June.

Rhian Graham, 29, Milo Ponsford, 25, Jake Skuse, 32, and Sage Willoughby, 21, are all due to appear at Bristol Magistrates’ Court on January 25, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

The statue of 17th-century slave trader Colston was toppled on June 7 during a Black Lives Matter protest and dumped in the River Avon.

Four people - Rhian Graham, 29, Milo Ponsford, 25, Jake Skuse, 32, and Sage Willoughby, 21, -are all due to appear at Bristol Magistrates' Court on January 25 related to the destruction of the Edward Colston in June (pictured). They have all been charged with criminal damage

Four people - Rhian Graham, 29, Milo Ponsford, 25, Jake Skuse, 32, and Sage Willoughby, 21, -are all due to appear at Bristol Magistrates' Court on January 25 related to the destruction of the Edward Colston in June (pictured). They have all been charged with criminal damage

Four people – Rhian Graham, 29, Milo Ponsford, 25, Jake Skuse, 32, and Sage Willoughby, 21, -are all due to appear at Bristol Magistrates’ Court on January 25 related to the destruction of the Edward Colston in June (pictured). They have all been charged with criminal damage

The incident sparked the destruction of other statues all over UK linked to Britain’s colonial past.

The CPS said on Wednesday that it had authorised charges following a review of a file of evidence from the force.

A spokesman said: ‘The Crown Prosecution Service reminds all concerned that criminal proceedings against all four are now active and that they have the right to a fair trial.

‘It is extremely important there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.’

A large investigation was launched by police following the event, which sparked debate worldwide.

Police launched an investigation after the statue of the controversial slave trader was pulled down and dumped in the city's harbour on April 7 during a protest against racial inequality

Police launched an investigation after the statue of the controversial slave trader was pulled down and dumped in the city's harbour on April 7 during a protest against racial inequality

Police launched an investigation after the statue of the controversial slave trader was pulled down and dumped in the city’s harbour on April 7 during a protest against racial inequality

Six men were previously fined £100 for their part in the toppling after accepting a conditional caution in October.

The group all accepted a ‘conditional caution’, which means they received a criminal record but avoided prosecution in the courts and any further punishment.

They were given six months to follow the conditions of their caution, including answering a questionnaire from a local history commission.

The six also have to complete two hours of ‘environmental improvement works’ organised by Bristol City Council, such as scrubbing graffiti.

After Colston’s statue was torn down in Bristol, protesters across the UK challenged a number of long-standing monuments which celebrated people with links to slavery or colonialism.

In October six men were identified and fined £100 for toppling the Edward Colston statue in Bristol during a Black Lives Matter protest (pictured) and given conditional cautions

In October six men were identified and fined £100 for toppling the Edward Colston statue in Bristol during a Black Lives Matter protest (pictured) and given conditional cautions

In October six men were identified and fined £100 for toppling the Edward Colston statue in Bristol during a Black Lives Matter protest (pictured) and given conditional cautions

That month, governors at Oriel College in Oxford voted to remove the statue of imperialist and mining magnate Cecil Rhodes. 

A statue to Winston Churchill was defaced with the words ‘was a racist’ and ‘f*** your agenda’ written underneath the memorial to the war time PM in Westminster Square, London.

Slave trader Robert Milligan’s was covered with a shroud and the message ‘Black Lives Matter’ was placed on it in West India Docks amid calls for it to be taken down. It was later removed by Tower Hamlets Council.

Less than a year after it was erected, ‘Nazi’ was scrawled underneath a statue of Nancy Astor, the first woman to take a  seat in Parliament, in Plymouth.

A monument to 19th-century politician Henry Vassall-Fox, the third Baron Holland, was left splattered with red paint in Holland Park. A cardboard sign reading ‘I owned 401 slaves’ was perched in the bronze statue’s arms, with the number painted on the plinth alongside red handprints.

A Grade II-listed monument to Admiral Lord Nelson, Britain’s foremost naval hero, which stands in the grounds of Norwich Cathedral, was sprayed with a black ‘V’ in the middle of a circle – an anarchist symbol.

Red paint spattered another stature of Lord Nelson at Deptford Town Hall in South London.

In Kent, a former councillor wrote ‘Dickens Racist’ outside a museum dedicated to the beloved 19th century author. Letters sent by the Oliver Twist author showed he wished to ‘exterminate’ Indian citizens after a failed uprising.

A statue of Civil War leader Oliver Cromwell in Wythenshawe Park, Manchester, had the words ‘Cromwell is a cockroach,’ ‘f*** racist’ and the Black Lives Matter acronym ‘BLM’ scrawled across it last month. Thousands of people were massacred during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland.

BLM was also scrawled across the Worcester Civil War memorial in Royal Park.

Edward Colston: Beloved son of Bristol and wealthy slave trader

Edward Colston was integral in the Royal African Company, which had complete control of Britain's slave trade

Edward Colston was integral in the Royal African Company, which had complete control of Britain's slave trade

Edward Colston was integral in the Royal African Company, which had complete control of Britain’s slave trade

Edward Colston was born to a wealthy merchant family in Bristol, 1636.

After working as an apprentice at a livery company he began to explore the shipping industry and started up his own business.

He later joined the Royal African Company and rose up the ranks to Deputy Governor.

The Company had complete control of Britain’s slave trade, as well as its gold and Ivory business, with Africa and the forts on the coast of west Africa.

During his tenure at the Company his ships transported around 80,000 slaves from Africa to the Caribbean and America.

Around 20,000 of them, including around 3,000 or more children, died during the journeys. 

Colston’s brother Thomas supplied the glass beads that were used to buy the slaves.

Colston became the Conservative MP for Bristol in 1710 but stood only for one term, due to old age and ill health.

He used a lot of his wealth, accrued from his extensive slave trading, to build schools and almshouses in his home city.

A statue was erected in his honour as well as other buildings named after him, including Colston Hall.

However, after years of protests by campaigners and boycotts by artists the venue recently agreed to remove all reference of the trader. 

On a statue commemorating Colston in Bristol, a plaque read: ‘Erected by citizens of Bristol as a memorial of one of the most virtuous and wise sons of their city.’ 

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 sparked by the death of George Floyd in the US, the statue of Colston overlooking the harbour was torn down. 

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