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Statue of slave trader torn down, thrown into river by U.K. protesters

Click to play video: 'George Floyd protests: Bristol, England protesters tear down statue of slave trader Edward Colston' George Floyd protests: Bristol, England protesters tear down statue of slave trader Edward Colston
WATCH: Protesters in Bristol, England tear down statue of slave trader Edward Colston – Jun 7, 2020

Anti-racism protesters in western England tore down a statue of a slave trader and threw it into a river during a Black Lives Matter protest on Sunday.

In a number of videos that have been shared widely on social media, protesters can be seen cheering as the statue of Edward Colston, a 17th-century slave trader, was torn down in Bristol.

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The statue, which was erected in the city in 1895, has sparked a number of petitions in recent years calling for its removal.

The most recent petition garnered over 11,000 signatures.

“Whilst history shouldn’t be forgotten, these people who benefited from the enslavement of individuals do not deserve the honour of a statue,” the petition reads. “This should be reserved for those who bring about positive change and who fight for peace, equality and social unity.”

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Colston was a member of the Royal African Company, which is estimated to have transported more than 200,000 enslaved people to the Caribbean and the Americas between 1662 and 1731.

More than 40,000 people are believed to have died en route.

READ MORE: Demonstrations largely peaceful as George Floyd protests continue across the U.S.

In video from the protest, a number of demonstrators can be seen using ropes tied around the statue’s head to pull it to the ground.

The crowd cheers as the statue falls, while a number of people jump on and kick it.

Demonstrators then brought the statue from the centre of the city to the Bristol Harbour, where protesters heaved it over a railing and dumped it into the River Avon.

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The protest in Bristol was one of many that began in Europe after the death of George Floyd — a 46-year-old Black man from Minneapolis who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes.

Floyd’s death acted as a catalyst, igniting anti-racism protests that began in the U.S. but have now spread internationally.

In a statement following the protest in Bristol, Avon and Somerset Police Chief Andy Bennet said approximately 10,000 people had attended the event.

“The vast majority of those who came to voice their concerns about racial inequality and injustice did so peacefully and respectfully,” the statement reads.

But Bennett said there was a “small group” who “clearly committed an act of criminal damage in pulling down a statue near Bristol Harbourside.”

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Bennett said an investigation will be carried out to identify those involved.

“We’re already collating footage of the incident,” the statement reads.

Elsewhere in the U.K., tens of thousands gathered to protest in London.

Sunday’s London protest was peaceful, with people clapping, taking to one knee, waving placards and chanting “George Floyd” and “the UK is not innocent.”

–With files from Reuters

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