Crowds tore down the statue of a 17th-century merchant as part of Black Lives Matter protests Sunday in the British city of Bristol.
The 1895 monument had been erected in the honor of Edward Colston, a major supporter of the city through philanthropy, and his name is found on buildings and streets, according to CBS News.
However, Colston was also a member of the Royal African Co., which brought an estimated 80,000 slaves from Africa to the British colonies in North America.
That piece of history had led thousands to sign petitions calling for the statue’s removal.
However, nothing happened until Sunday.
That’s when rioters put ropes around the statue and toppled it from its pedestal as onlookers cheered.
The statue was then dragged to the water’s edge of the port city and dunked.
“The vast majority of those who came to voice their concerns about racial inequality and injustice did so peacefully and respectfully,” said Andy Bennett, superintendent of Bristol police, according to The Independent.
“However, there was a small group of people who clearly committed an act of criminal damage in pulling down a statue near Bristol Harbourside,” he said.
“Whilst I am disappointed that people would damage one of our statues, I do understand why it’s happened, it’s very symbolic,” Bennett said, according to The Guardian.
“You might wonder why we didn’t intervene and why we just allowed people to put it in the docks – we made a very tactical decision, to stop people from doing the act may have caused further disorder and we decided the safest thing to do, in terms of our policing tactics, was to allow it to take place,” he said.
British Home Secretary Priti Patel called the toppling the statue “utterly disgraceful,” “completely unacceptable” and “sheer vandalism,” and others shared similar sentiments.
Home Secretary Priti Patel says the toppling of a statue of slaver Edward Colston in Bristol is “utterly disgraceful” and ‘undermines’ anti-racism protests.
— SkyNews (@SkyNews) June 7, 2020
“The protesters who tore down the statue of Edward Colston were behaving like a Woke Taliban. We’ve seen Islamists smashing ‘evil’ monuments from the past, and now the PC mob is doing the same. Political correctness is increasingly hysterical.”
— spiked (@spikedonline) June 8, 2020
Policing minister Kit Malthouse says “a crime has been committed” and protesters who pulled down a statue of Edward Colston in Bristol should be punished
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) June 8, 2020
Police have begun an investigation to identify the individuals involved.
Protestor John McAllister, 71, explained his presence at the event.
”It says ‘erected by the citizens of Bristol, as a memorial to one of the most virtuous and wise sons of this city,'” he said.
“The man was a slave trader. He was generous to Bristol but it was off the back of slavery and it’s absolutely despicable. It’s an insult to the people of Bristol,” McAllister said.
Marches across Britain protested the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, racism and the police.
“I stand with you. George Floyd’s brutal killing must lead to immediate and lasting change everywhere,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan said Sunday, according to CNN.
Thousands of marchers gathered by the U.S. Embassy in London.
Government officials had urged protesters not to gather to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
“I would say to those that want to protest, please don’t,” Patel said.
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