Bristol statue toppling: Who was Edward Colston and why did anti-racism protesters target him?

By Alice Tidey

Anti-racism protesters in the English city of Bristol tore down the controversial statue of slave trader Edward Colston on Sunday after years of wrangling over his checkered legacy.

The 5.5-metre statue was toppled from its plinth and then thrown in the River Avon towards the end of a protest attended by about 10,000 people to denounce institutional racism.

The march, like similar ones across Europe, was organised in solidarity to the Black Lives Matter movement following the death of African American George Floyd last month in Minneapolis, US.

Who was Edward Colston?

Colston was born to a wealthy merchant family in Bristol but was educated in London, where he was based for most of his working life, according to the Museum of Bristol’s website.

He initially traded on his own account in Europe in woollen textiles and wine but bought shares in the Royal African Company (RAC) in 1680. Only RAC members were allowed to trade with Africa for gold, ivory and enslaved Africans.