British Protesters Topple Statue of Slave Trader Said to Have Trafficked 80,000 People from Africa

A statue of 17th-century slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down and rolled into a harbor in southwest England

Edward Colston statue
Edward Colston statue is toppled. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire via ZUMA Press

English protestors tore down a bronze statue of a 17th-century slave trader and tossed it into a harbor in a display of solidarity with Black Lives Matters activists in America.

On Sunday, a group of protestors in Bristol, a city in the southwest of England, used rope to pull down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston, who is responsible for trafficking some 80,000 men, women and children from Africa to North America through the Royal African Company, the BBC reported.

The moment was captured in a viral video posted to Twitter that has garnered hundreds of thousands of views.

According to the BBC, once Colston's statue came down, a protestor placed a knee on its neck — which symbolized how George Floyd was killed on May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd's killing has led to protests against police brutality across the United States and around the world.

Footage posted by Twitter user James Felton shows the crowd of protestors pushing Colston's statue into a river to the cheers of the hundreds in attendance.

"If you’re one of the people who thinks throwing a statue of Edward Colston into the sea is bad, wait until you find out about the 19,000 slaves who died whilst his company transported them to the Caribbean," Felton wrote in the caption of the video that has been viewed 8 million times.

Edward Colston statue
Ben Birchall/PA Wire via ZUMA Press

Colston died in 1721 and has remained a source of controversy for residents in the city as streets, memorials and buildings still bear his name. The statue of Colston was first erected in the center of Bristol in 1895, according to Al Jazeera.

But the city has now launched an investigation into the statue's destruction, Superintendent Andy Bennett of the Avon and Somerset Constabulary announced in a statement to their website.

"The vast majority of those who came to voice their concerns about racial inequality and injustice did so peacefully and respectfully," Bennett said. "The ongoing coronavirus pandemic added a different dynamic to what was always going to be a challenging policing operation."

“Keeping the public safe was our greatest priority and thankfully there were no instances of disorder and no arrests were made," he continued, in part. "However, there was a small group of people who clearly committed an act of criminal damage in pulling down a statue near Bristol Harbourside."

Bennett said the department is working to identify protestors using footage of the incident.

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Despite the constabulary's reaction, many residents defended the statue's removal on social media.

"If a person [is] more upset at the pulling down of a statue of a bloke from hundreds of years ago than they did about a lynching 10 days ago, just make a mental note," said one Twitter user in reference to Floyd's death.

"A statue is usually erected to celebrate someone who was good. Edward Colston was not good," added another user. "Why is tearing it down so hard for some people to comprehend?"

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

• Campaign Zero ( which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies. works to make government more responsive to racial disparities.

• National Cares Mentoring Movement ( provides social and academic support to help black youth succeed in college and beyond.

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