The “Colston 4” were charged with tearing down the monument on June 7, 2020. In Bristol’s harbourside, they were charged with criminal damage.
A jury acquitted Rhian Graham, 30, Milo Ponsford, 26, Sage Willoughby, 22, and Jake Skuse, 33, of any wrongdoing after the defendants’ attorneys said the bronze monument was insulting.
They claimed the 1895 monument commemorated a slave trade benefactor and was a hate crime.
It wasn’t Colston or his slave relations on trial, but the rule of law, prosecutors maintained.
Critics worry the ruling may inspire others to demolish historical individuals’ monuments.
Several left-wing Labour MPs cheered the jury’s verdict.
Zarah Sultana, Coventry South MP “Edward Colston was responsible for violently transporting 84,000 Africans to the Caribbean.”
“They were chained, beaten and raped, with 19,000 dying en route.”
“Grotesquely, a statue was put up to honour him in Bristol, but today in court, those who toppled it were rightly cleared.”
Rachel Maskell, York Central MP “This verdict has started to confront the shameful past of colonial Britain, where statues were erected to veil the true characters of the people at the heart of slavery.”
“Political propaganda was as live then as it is today.”
“The real criminal act were the deeds of this man.”
“The toppling of Edward Colston’s statue was not a criminal act,” according to Norwich South’s Clive Lewis.
“The real crime was the fact the statue was still there when protestors pulled it down,” he said.
The statue was damaged by £3,750, with its staff and coattail removed, and the railings of Pero’s Bridge for £350.