A protest calling for the police to scrap its criminal investigation into the toppling of the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol is to take place next week.
Campaigners will gather outside City Hall on College Green and demand there should be no prosecutions for criminal damage, and the city and its business community should apologise for its role in the slave trade.
The protest is being organised by Bristol’s Stand Up To Racism group, and is taking place on Tuesday, July 7 from 4pm to 5pm.
“The tearing down of the statue during the Black Lives Matter protest on June 7 was not a criminal act,” a statement by the organisers of Tuesday’s protest said.
“It was an expression of anger not only with the killing of George Floyd but also at the complacency of Bristol’s leading representatives over three centuries to the crimes that have been committed against black people.
(Image: Western Daily Press)
“Edward Colston was the real criminal. It is time Bristol faced up to its past. The city council and business community should now make a public apology for the role the city has played in the slave trade. We need to commemorate and remember the legacy of slavery,” the statement added.
In the weeks after the statue was toppled, Bristol City Council submitted a statement to the police which said the statue had been damaged without its permission.
Avon and Somerset police said they had identified 18 different individuals they wanted to speak to in relation to the crime, and late last month issued 15 photographs taken from video or CCTV footage of people they still wanted to identify.
This week, the police said they had made one arrest already, and Bristol Live also revealed a solicitor in the city said his client – an unnamed teenager – had been offered a caution by police – with added requests – for his part in the statue toppling.
There has been a campaign against any prosecutions for the statue toppling, and fundraising is taking place to pay for legal help for anyone who does end up charged with criminal damage.
“No charges should be brought against any individual for bringing down the statue,” said the organisers of Tuesday’s protest, who said the event will be socially-distanced and those taking part should wear masks.
“Avon and Somerset Constabulary should stop their investigations. There should be no pressure from Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, to prosecute,” they added.
When asked to comment on the protest, a police spokesperson referred Bristol Live to comments made by the detective leading the inquiry when the force issued its public appeal.
Detective Superintendent Liz Hughes said: “The incident attracted worldwide attention and there’s no denying it has polarised public opinion – but in the eyes of the law a crime has been committed and we’re duty-bound to investigate this without fear or favour.
“I’d like to reassure people we’re carrying out a thorough, fair and proportionate investigation and have sought early investigative advice from the Crown Prosecution Service,” she added.
Bristol Live contacted Bristol City Council for a comment at 1pm on Friday, July 3 and is yet to receive a formal response.