Four in UK court over toppling of Edward Colston statue

The memorial of the slave trader was pulled down and thrown into Bristol Harbour during Black Lives Matter protests

FILE PHOTO: The statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston falls into the water after protesters pulled it down and pushed into the docks, during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Bristol, Britain, June 7, 2020. Picture taken June 7, 2020. Keir Gravil via REUTERS       THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. THIS IMAGE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY, AN UNPROCESSED VERSION HAS BEEN PROVIDED SEPARATELY./File Photo
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Four people appeared in a court in England on Monday facing criminal damage charges over the toppling of a statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston.

The four are accused of being part of a crowd that tore down the statue and dumped it in Bristol Harbour in June last year.

Merchants of Bristol, in south-west England, became involved in the lucrative slave trade industry from the end of the 17th century until the trade was banned in the UK in 1807.

The Colston protest was part of UK-wide Black Lives Matter demonstrations that followed the death of George Floyd in the US after he was restrained by police a month earlier .

The protests in the UK focused on the country's colonial past and its role in the slave trade.

The statue was recovered and is due to go on display in a museum bearing the scars and graffiti of the protest.

The four accused, Rhian Graham, 29, Milo Ponsford, 25, Jake Skuse, 36, and Sage Willoughby, 21, denied criminal damage and will face trial at a later date.

Four people were arrested for breaching coronavirus rules after turning up to support the so-called Colston 4.

A message written in chalk outside Bristol Magistrates' Court, where Rhian Graham, Milo Ponsford, Jake Skuse and Sage Willoughby are due to appear, charged with criminal damage over the toppling of the statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston, during the Black Lives Matter protests in June last year, in Bristol, England, Monday Jan. 25, 2021. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)

Gatherings of more than two people are currently prohibited.

A further 150 people joined a video call to show their support.