UK prosecutors charge 4 over toppling of slave trader statue

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FILE – In this file photo dated Monday, June 8, 2020, people look at the empty pedestal after a statue of notorious slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down during a Black Lives Matter demo, in Bristol, England. Four people have been were charged with criminal damage over the toppling of the 17th-century slave trader Colston statue, according to an announcement Wednesday Dec. 9, 2020, by Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, FILE)

LONDON (AP) — Four people were charged with criminal damage on Wednesday over the toppling of a statue of a 17th-century slave trader and public benefactor in the city of Bristol.

Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service said Rhian Graham, 29, Milo Ponsford, 25, Jake Skuse, 32, and 21-year-old Sage Willoughby are due to appear in court Jan. 25 for an initial hearing.

The statue of Edward Colston was pulled from its plinth in the southwest England city during an anti-racism demonstration in June and dumped in Bristol harbor. Its toppling was part of protests in several countries against racism and slavery, sparked by the death of a Black American man, George Floyd, at the hands of police in Minneapolis in May.

Colston made a fortune transporting enslaved Africans across the Atlantic to the Americas on Bristol-based ships. He was a major benefactor to Bristol, with streets and institutions named for him, and the statue-felling sparked a debate about racism and historical commemoration.

City authorities fished the Colston statue out of the harbor and say it will be placed in a museum, along with placards from the Black Lives Matter demonstration.

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