Hackney anti-racism group praise 'inspirational' Colston 4

The statue of Sir Robert Geffrye features prominently on one side of the museum's building. 

The statue of Sir Robert Geffrye features prominently on one side of the museum's building. - Credit: Holly Chant

A Hackney anti-racism group has congratulated four Black Lives Matter (BLM) protestors found not guilty after toppling a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol. 

Rhian Graham, 30, Milo Ponsford, 26, Sage Willoughby, 22, and Jake Skuse, 33, were prosecuted for pulling the statue of the 17th century slave trader down during a Black Lives Matter protest on June 7, 2020, while a huge crowd was present.

The protestors, known as the Colston 4, were acquitted by a jury at Bristol Crown Court on Wednesday (January 5). 

Local campaign group Hackney Stand Up To Racism (HSUTR) released a statement on January 6.

It read: "When they toppled the statue on June 7, 2020, Black Lives Matter activists in Bristol sent an inspirational message across the world that the glorification of slavers wasn't acceptable anymore."

HSUTR said the statue glorified Colston and "hid the reality" that he was a slave trader. 

A further six protestors were given “restorative justice” outcomes, which saw them pay a £100 fine, undertake unpaid work and fill in a questionnaire about their actions.

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When asked about the verdict prime minister Boris Johnson said: "We have a complex historical legacy all around us, and it reflects our history in all its diversity, for good or ill.

“What you can’t do is go around seeking retrospectively to change our history or to bowdlerise it or edit it in retrospect."

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for HSUTR said the Colston 4 have "been an inspiration" to the organisation which has been campaigning for almost two years to have the trustees of Hoxton's Museum of the Home take down a statue of Robert Geffrey. 

Geffrey profited from the transatlantic slave trade in the 17th century. 

The museum recently expressed its intention “to retain the statue on site but in an alternative and less prominent space, where we can better tell the full story” of Geffrye's role in the slave-trade.

However, since its announcement at the end of last year, the Geffrye statue remains in a prominent position on a plinth at one of museum's entrances.