By Megan Evans, News Subeditor
Four people facing charges for the toppling of the statue of 17th-Century slave trader Edward Colston had their first hearing at Bristol Magistrates’ Court this morning.
Events at Bristol’s Black Lives Matter march last summer, 7 June 2020, became national news after the Colston statue was toppled, vandalised, and thrown into the harbour.
Today, the so-called ‘Colston 4’ – Rhian Graham (29), Milo Ponsford (25), Jake Skuse (36), and Sage Willoughby (21) – all pleaded not guilty to charges of criminal damage.
They were faced with the charge of ‘jointly with each other and others unknown without lawful excuse, damaged property, namely the statue of Edward Colston and a plinth of a value unknown belonging to Bristol City Council, intending to destroy or damage such property or being reckless as to whether such property would be destroyed or damaged.’
The four turned down an offer of a summary trial at the Magistrates’ Court, and will instead face trial at Bristol Crown Court before a judge and jury.
The case was adjourned, with the next hearing scheduled to take place on February 8.
Over 160 people from across the country attended a virtual demonstration to express ‘solidarity’ for the four during their hearing, from 9:30-10 AM.
The event included speakers from All Black Lives Bristol, Black Community Rising, and Speaking Statues, as well as Dr Shawn Sobers of UWE Bristol. An eight-minute silence was held in memory of the lives lost due to Edward Colston and the Bristol-based slave trade.
A small number of protestors also gathered in-person outside the Bristol Magistrates’ Court, where a large police presence was staged.
The hashtag #GladColstonsGone has been used to express support for the removal of the statue and the ‘Colston 4.’
Featured Image: Rufus Atkins
What do you make of the decision of the ‘Colston 4’ to plead ‘not guilty’ and take their case to a jury trial?