Group try to rescue statue of Edward Colston from river after it was thrown there by Black Lives Matter protesters

A GROUP of men were pictured trying to rescue Edward Colston's statue from Bristol harbour yesterday.

More than 10,000 angered protestors attended the city's Black Lives Matter march on Sunday when they toppled the slave trader's 19th century monument and dumped it in the water.

Yesterday evening five men were photographed using a large pole in Bristol harbour exactly where the 18ft bronze statue was dropped, reportedly trying to rescue it.

Similar protests broke out in cities across the country including Liverpool, Manchester and London in solidarity with black people after the brutal killing of African American George Floyd, 46.

Mr Floyd died in police custody when officer Derek Chauvin put a knee on his neck despite protestations of “I can’t breath,” sparking global outrage.

But demonstrations were accused of being hijacked by a violent minority when Winston Churchill's Parliament Square statue was defaced, the Union Jack flag was almost set on fire and a police officer ended up in hospital.

Another protest tonight has raised fears that Oxford University's statue of imperialist Cecil Rhodes could face the same fate as Colston and be pulled down.

Police have since launched an investigation into the sinking of Colston's statue, which Home Secretary Priti Patel called "utterly disgraceful."

She told MPs: “It is not for mobs to tear down statues and cause criminal damage in our streets.”

The Prime Minister added that those who harmed police or property would face "the full force of the law".

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said it was the “wrong” way to take it down but admitted the statue "should have been taken down a long, long time ago.”

Bristol’s Labour mayor Marvin Rees said he felt no loss seeing the statue go knowing his ancestors would have been enslaved.

He said: “I am of Jamaican heritage and I cannot pretend that I have any real sense of loss for the statue and I cannot pretend it was anything other than a personal affront to me to have it in the middle of Bristol, the city in which I grew up.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan also today urged all statues commemorating racist slave owners to be removed and for streets and squares to be renamed to be more representative of a modern, inclusive Britain.

Elusive artist Banksy has now called for the toppled Colston statue to be resurrected to commemorate the moment it was pulled down.

Who was Edward Colston?

Edward Colston was born to a wealthy merchant family in Bristol in 1636 and died in 1721.

In 1680 he became a member of the Royal African Company which at the time had a monopoly on the England and West African slave trade.

By 1689 he had risen to become the firm's deputy governor and is believed to have transported around 84,000 African men, women and children as slaves.

Slaves bought in West Africa were branded with the company initials RAC and packed on to ships for a six to eight week voyage to the Americas.

Some 10,000 poor people, orphans or criminals were also shipped out from Bristol as bonded labour.

His bronze statue had been in the city centre since 1895 – but was seen as a symbol of his slave trading past and locals had been calling for it to be removed.

Colston's statue has been debated in Bristol for years with no conclusion reached for its future until it was pulled down with ropes, trampled on and rolled down the hill towards the water where his slave ships once docked.

Bristol's black community repeatedly argued it was humiliating to walk beneath the commemoration of a man who enslaved their ancestors and was responsible for an estimated 19,000 deaths.

Colston was a merchant for the Royal Africa Company in the 17th century who made his fortune trafficking around 84,000 enslaved people and gave significant sums of money to charities in the West Country city.

He was also a philanthropist and gave significant sums of money to charities in the West Country city.

The statue – which was only built in 1895, more than 170 years after his death – is just one of numerous other Bristol landmarks still named after the slave trader, including streets, squares and even a pub, The Colston Arms.

Music venue Colston Hall was already set to change its name and has now committed to a rebrand by Autumn of this year.

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