Who are the Colston Four? Group walk free in landmark case

There were scenes of joy from anti-racism activists on January 5, 2022 when the Bristol Colston Four were cleared of criminal damage.

The quartet toppled the statue of notorious slave trader Edward Colston in the River Avon during a protest against Black Lives Matter in 2020.

This is a landmark case and is seen by many as a small step towards Britain recognizing its central role in the slave trade.

In their closing statements in court, the defense called on the jury to be on the “right side of history” and said the statue, which has stood in town for 185 years, is so indecent as it represents a crime.

Historian and broadcaster David Olusoga testified at the trial.

“Edward Colston was remembered as a philanthropist for 300 years, his role in the slave trade and his many thousands of victims carved out of history,” he said.

The monarchy-backed Royal African Company sent 84,000 Africans into slavery, including 12,000 children. Colston rose to be the company’s current CEO.

Olusoga said the company had “transported more Africans into slavery than any other company in the entire history of the slave trade in the North Atlantic.”

Prosecutors argued that the fact that Colston was a slave trader was “completely irrelevant”.

His statue was erected 174 years after Colston’s death in 1721, with full knowledge of his role in slavery.

Typically, the verdict sparked an angry reaction from some, who claimed the fall was cultural vandalism and one Conservative MP tweeted, “That sends the wrong message across the board.”

Who are the Colston Four?

The Colston Four are Rhian Graham (30), Milo Ponsford (26), Sage Willoughby (22) and Jake Skuse (23).

Each quartet was described as having sincere anti-racist motives and being frustrated with previous attempts to persuade the council to remove the statue.

Ponsford, a carpenter, told the jury: “I thought that a statue celebrating a character like Colston would be a shame and an insult to the people of Bristol.”

Graham, Singer’s half-sister Rag ‘n’ bone man who brought a rope into the protest scene, said she had acted out of “allies and solidarity” with colored people.

Skuse admitted in court that he helped roll the Colston statue to Pero’s Bridge after getting tired of kicking it before it was thrown into the Avon.

“I knew I was right, I knew everyone wanted it down. I knew Bristol wanted it, everyone wanted the same thing, “said Skuse.

Willoughby, the youngest of the group, said he has had since he was 11.

Colston’s statue is now in the M Shed Museum in Bristol, perhaps the most important artifact in Britain’s slow awakening to its dark, colonial past.


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