Arrests made at protest in support of 'The Colston 4'

Police outside Bristol Magistrates' Court ahead of the appearance of 'The Colston 4'.
There was a heavy police presence outside Bristol Magistrates' Court. Credit: PA

Four people have been arrested in Bristol for "attending an unlawful protest" outside the city's magistrates' court.

The protest was held as four people charged with the criminal damage of slave trader Edward Colston's statue appeared at Bristol Magistrates' Court for the first time.

The statue was toppled during a Black Lives Matter protest in June before it was thrown in to the harbour. It was later recovered by Bristol City Council.

Rhian Graham, Milo Ponsford, Jake Skuse, and Sage Willoughby - known as 'The Colston 4' - have been charged with criminal damage.

They deny the charges against them and have elected to be tried via judge and jury and the case has been adjourned to February 8, when it will be heard at Bristol Court Crown.

A protest had been planned in support of the four defendants, but due to the pandemic organisers urged people to gather online instead.

The statue of slave trader Edward Colston was taken down and rolled into the water in June last year (2020).

More than 150 people joined a video call, but a small number of people still turned up in person.

'SUPPORT THE COLSTON 4' was drawn in chalk outside the courthouse and several people were seen being taken away by police.

In a statement, Avon and Somerset Police has now confirmed four people were arrested for "attending an unlawful protest in Bristol".

Two men - aged 43 and 68 - and two women - aged 59 and 60 - were detained by officers after refusing to disperse.

The statement adds: "Formal warnings were also given to four other people who subsequently left the area.

"Gatherings of more than two people are currently prohibited by the government and protests are not exempt in this lockdown.

"An event was originally due to take place in support of the four people charged by the Crown Prosecution Service with causing criminal damage to the statue of Edward Colston last June – whose first appearance in court took place today.

Police outside Bristol Magistrates' Court ahead of the hearing. Credit: PA

"In light of the pandemic organisers subsequently urged people to gather online and more than 150 people joined a video call this morning.

"However, a small number of people chose to turn up in person, resulting in officers engaging with them before taking enforcement action when they refused to leave.

"We’d like to once again thank those who dialled into the online event for recognising the gravity of the health crisis we continue to endure."