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British protesters topple statue of 17th century slave trader

June 7 (UPI) -- Anti-racism protesters in Britain on Sunday torn down the statue of a 17th-century slave trader and threw it into the Bristol Harbor, authorities said.

Thousands of people took to the streets in the southwestern British city on Sunday to protest the police-involved death of George Floyd, a black American who was killed May 25 in Minneapolis while being arrested by a white police officer, when protesters yanked down the statue of Edward Colston that stood in the city center with ropes.

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Video of the incident posted online shows demonstrators roll the bronze statue over a railing into the River Avon to cheers of the onlooking crowd.

Avon and Somerset Police said only a small minority "committed an act of criminal damage in pulling down a statue near Bristol Harborside."

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"An investigation will be carried out to identify those involved and we're already collating footage of the incident," police superintendent Andy Bennett said in a statement.

Bennett said some 10,000 people attended the Black Lives Matter demonstration, the vast majority of whom peacefully and respectfully voiced "their concerns about racial inequality and injustice."

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Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees told Channel 4 News that as a politician he can't condone damage to the city but that he did not support the statue.

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"What I cannot do as an elected politician is support criminal damage or social disorder like this but I would never pretend that the statue of a slaver in the middle of Bristol, the city in which I grew up, and someone who may well have owned one of my ancestors was anything other than a personal affront to me," he said.

Edward Colston is a controversial figure as he is known as both a philanthropist and a slave trader, according to the Museums of Bristol website.

The website states that he sat on the governing body of the Royal African Company, which dealt in slaves, for 11 years.

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The statue of Colston was pulled down as a petition online with more than 11,000 signatures called for its removal.

Andrew Adonis, a politician with the British Labor Party, tweeted he hoped no legal action would be taken "against those who removed mass slave trader Edward Colston's statue."

"This should have happened decades ago," he said. "His name has been removed from other monuments in Bristol. No way should we be celebrating slave traders today."

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