BLM protesters who desecrated the Edward Colston statue in Bristol were found not guilty of criminal damage.
Four Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters have been found not guilty of criminal damage after toppling a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol and tossing it into the harbor.
On nearby CCTV, Rhian Graham, 30, Milo Ponsford, 26, and Sage Willoughby, 22, were seen passing ropes guarding the statue, which were later used to pull it down.
Jake Skuse, 33, was charged with plotting to toss the statue into the harbor.
After nearly three hours of deliberations at the end of a two-week trial, a jury in Bristol Crown Court found all four of them not guilty.
As the not guilty verdicts were announced, the public gallery erupted in applause.
During a BLM protest in Bristol on June 7, 2020, the bronze memorial to 17th-century slave merchant Colston was torn down and rolled into the water.
Several people were involved, but only four were prosecuted.
The statue was damaged to the tune of £3,750, including the loss of its staff and a coattail, and the railings of Pero’s Bridge were damaged to the tune of £350.
All four defendants admitted to taking part in the incident, but they denied that their actions were illegal.
Instead, they claimed that the Colston statue was a hate crime against Bristol residents.
Mr Ponsford’s lawyer, Tom Wainwright, raised the issue of the defendants’ costs being repaid after their acquittal.
However, Judge Peter Blair QC questioned whether this was appropriate given the defendants’ high-profile support.
During the trial, the prosecution argued that the case was about simple criminal damage, and that Colston’s identity was “irrelevant.”
However, lawyers for all four defendants argued that the 17th-century slave trader and his legacy were crucial to reaching a decision in the case.
Colston was also accused of enslaving and transporting over 80,000 people, nearly 10,000 of whom were children, according to Bristol Crown Court.
On ships bound for the Caribbean and the Americas, approximately 19,000 people died.
The court heard during the trial that there had been campaigns in Bristol dating back to the 1920s to have the statue removed.
Professor David Olusoga, a TV historian and author, testified for the four defendants as an expert witness.
Cleo Lake, the former Lord Mayor of Bristol, backed them as well.