Not guilty are the young men in Bristol who tore down the Colston monument

The Crown Court ruling on the case of the four young men who tore down the monument to Edward Colston in Bristol in 2020 has arrived: they were found not guilty.

Sentencing has come for the so-called “Bristol Four,” or the young men who in 2020 in Bristol tore down the monument of slaver Edward Colston, so far the only case of a statue torn down in Europe following protests by the Black Lives Matter movement two years ago. The four (Milo Ponsford, 26; Jake Skuse, 37; Sage Willoughby, 22; Rhian Graham, 30) were acquitted of all charges before the Crown Court, whose verdicts are handed down by a judge and jury of 12 citizens. The youths were charged with damaging, on June 7, 2020, in the city of Bristol, together with strangers and without justifiable cause, the statue of Edward Colston and a pedestal belonging to the Bristol community with intent to destroy or damage such property.

The defense centered on the fact that the four defendants saw the statue as offensive and a perpetration of a racist hate crime, and that its removal had come after three decades of campaigning for its removal. “Each of the defendants,” Liam Walker, counsel for Sage Willoughby, had told the Guardian yesterday, “was on the right side of history, and I stress, was also on the right side of the law. Colston’s deeds may be historic, but the continued veneration of him in this town was not. The continued veneration of him in a vibrant multicultural city was an abuse. Colston’s statue normalized the abuse. It condemned the acceptance of racism with a shrug. It celebrated the achievements of a racist murderer. The continued existence of that statue was a racist hate crime.”

Another of the attorneys, Tom Wainwright, had suggested that the historical significance and value of the statue was, if anything, enhanced by the takedown because the four, rather than destroying history, created it, while achieving the effect of correcting Colston’s crimes. “One would think it would discredit the criminal justice system if a person were convicted of criminally damaging something by adding value to it, by improving it. So ask yourself what value this statue had before June 7, 2020, and what value it has now.”

Immediately after the verdict, lawyers for the four youths issued statements. Raj Chada, representing Jake Skuse, stated that “The truth is that the defendants should never have been prosecuted. It is shameful that the Bristol City Council did not take down the statue of slaver Edward Colston who caused such offense to people in Bristol, and it is equally shameful that it then upheld the charges against these defendants.” Blinne Ni Ghralaigh, representing Rhian Graham, said, “Juries represent the community’s collective sense of justice. In this case, the jury determined that a conviction for the removal of this statue, which glorified a slave trader involved in the enslavement of more than 84,000 black men, women and children, would not be proportionate.”

The case had been followed for Windows on Art by Leonardo Bison(article here).

Not guilty are the young men in Bristol who tore down the Colston monument
Not guilty are the young men in Bristol who tore down the Colston monument

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