On Wednesday, a jury found the Colston 4 not guilty of criminal damage to a statue of slave trader Edward Colston they helped topple in the summer of 2020. It took jurors just under three hours to reach their decision.
In this video, Cable presenter and producer Priyanka Raval speaks to a defence lawyer and two supporters of the Colston 4 on the steps of Bristol Crown Court in the moments after their acquittal.
Over the course of the trial, prosecutors alleged that the criminal damage done to the monument was a “cold, hard fact”. But the defence argued the defendants’ actions were proportionate as the statue’s presence in the city was a “hate crime”.
Christine Townsend, Green councillor for Southville and member of prominent campaign group Countering Colston, commented after the verdict that the city “had very powerful defenders of the Colston cult and the Colston legacy”. She believed the jury must have “had a good history lesson on their own city – and probaby a lot of people in the courtroom did.”
Raj Chada, a known protest lawyer speaking for the defence, said it had been a “pretty heavy and poignant trial”. He also expressed surprise that the council had sent one of its officers as a prosecution witness.
However, on the day after the trial, mayor Marvin Rees, who has come under criticism for inaction over the statue, was quoted saying that the event was largely symbolic, and had little to do with tackling racism.
Upon leaving the courtroom, defendant Rhian Graham, 30, gave her thanks to the crowd of activists and supporters gathered outside court, saying, “We have never been alone in this journey.”
The verdict could be appealed, but it is understood that this would not affect the acquittal of the defendants.
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The case has been adjourned until 4 January, when the jury will hear closing speeches from the prosecution and defence, as well as the judge’s summing up of evidence.
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The act ‘centred’ a global conversation about Britain’s role in the slave trade, she told the trial of the Colston 4.