A man has been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage after a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down during an anti-racism protest in Bristol.
The bronze memorial to the 17th Century slave trader was torn down during a Black Lives Matter protest on June 7 and was later dumped into Bristol harbour.
A 24-year-old man has now been arrested on suspicion of criminal damage by officers investigating the incident, Avon and Somerset Police said. It is understood he is the first person to be arrested in relation to the incident, as no arrests were made at the time.
But the force subsequently released 15 images of people they wished to speak to after reviewing footage of the statue being pulled down. The investigation is ongoing, added police.
During the protest, the statue was torn down with rope, dragged through the streets of Bristol, and thrown into the water near Pero’s Bridge – named in honour of an enslaved man.
The monument, which has been in the city centre since 1895, has long been a source of controversy in Bristol after becoming the subject of numerous petitions to get it taken down.
Bristol City Council later fished the statue out of the water, and it will now be displayed in a museum along with placards from the Black Lives Matter protest.
Detective Superintendent Liz Hughes said in an appeal on June 22: ‘The incident attracted worldwide attention and there’s no denying it has polarised public opinion – but in the eyes of the law a crime has been committed and we’re duty-bound to investigate this without fear or favour.
‘I’d like to reassure people we’re carrying out a thorough, fair and proportionate investigation and have sought early investigative advice from the Crown Prosecution Service.’
The toppling of the Bristol statue came amid renewed calls for monuments of colonialists and slave owners to be removed across the UK – a topic which has sparked debate.
A bronze statue of 18th century slave trader Robert Milligan was also removed from its spot on West India Quay, outside the Museum of London Docklands, last month.
The Museum of London said the statue had stood ‘uncomfortably’ outside for a long time and that it was ‘part of the ongoing problematic regime of white-washing history, which disregards the pain of those who are still wrestling with the remnants of the crimes Milligan committed against humanity’.
Protesters also called for Oxford’s statue of imperialist Cecil John Rhodes to be pulled down.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan announced in June that he had launched a commission to review of all of London’s statues and street names, saying any with links to slavery ‘should be taken down’. Labour in local government (LGA) said all Labour councils will also be reviewing monuments.