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“It’s such an historic day for Bristol,” said campaigner Jen Reid as she joined the panel at a press conference to celebrate the acquittal of four protesters accused of criminal damage over the toppling of the statue of Edward Colston.

Colston’s statue was thrown into the harbour on June 7, 2020 during a Black Lives Matter rally in Bristol city centre, as part of worldwide protests following the murder in the US of George Floyd.

Rhian Graham, 30, of Colston Road, Easton in Bristol; Milo Ponsford, 26, of Otter Close in Bishopstoke, Hampshire; Jake Skuse, 37, of Farley Close in Little Stoke, South Gloucestershire and Sage Willoughby, 22, of Gloucester Road in Bristol, were all charged with criminal damage and underwent a trial that lasted almost a month before being cleared of the charges by a jury.

Read more: Timeline of events that led to the Colston 4 trial

Rhian Graham joined former Lord Mayor Cleo Lake, Bristol City councillor Christine Townsend, lawyer Raj Chada and campaigner Jen Reid at a press briefing after the court hearing.

Speaking at the briefing Jen Reid said: “Bristol took matters in their own hands and the four of them were at the front and I am just so proud of them.

“Bristol City Council should be on trial. It’s inciting racial hatred. What was the purpose of Edward Colston if not to divide and lord it up over people? What we did that day had a ripple affect around the world.

“Without those four I wouldn’t have been able to stand on that plinth and raise my fist.”

A week after Colston’s statue was topped, a new statue appeared. The image was powerful – a resin sculpture of a Black woman raising a clenched fist, the long-established symbol used to fight oppression.

A Surge of Power (Jen Reid), created by British sculptor Marc Quinn, was removed by Bristol City Council within 24 hours as it had not approved the installation.

Press conference after the Colston verdict: Left to right - Defendant Rhian Graham, former Mayor Cleo Lake, lawyer Raj Chada, Bristol City councillor Christine Townsend and activist Jen Reid

Cllr Christine Townsend said Colston’s toppling captured a zeitgeist and it was important to keep up the momentum that it had created. She said Bristol should take this moment to remove the Society of Merchant Venturers from its democratic processes.

She added: “Ordinary Bristolians could not understand why we were so upset with Colston. What happened in 2020 was it caught a zeitgeist. Sometimes that happens in life. When it does it’s really important that people take that.

“Now the dial has moved and there is no going back. The Society of Merchant Venturers need to get out of our democracy.

“There are unelected members of this organisation that somehow have political power. It’s an opaque organisation. Liverpool had these organisations and they got rid of them in the 1960s and 70s.

“This is their reckoning. I’m going to be calling out (Bristol Mayor) Marvin Rees and I’m going to be calling out other elected members who bowed down to these people. It is not for them to be involved in our democratic processes.”

Bristol’s cult of Colston

Lawyer Raj Chada said the prosecution of the so-called Colston 4 had not been in the public interest.

He said: I hope that the courts will take into account that direct action can be justified. The prosecution was not in the public interest in any shape or form. These four individuals have had to go through a year and a half of quite difficult personal circumstances. It was not in the public interest.”

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This content was originally published here.

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