Member of Colston Four on the 'casual racism' she saw during her Norfolk childhood

(left to right) Sage Willoughby, Jake Skuse, Milo Ponsford and Rhian Graham outside Bristol Crown Co

The Colston Four - (left to right) Sage Willoughby, Jake Skuse, Milo Ponsford and Rhian Graham - outside Bristol Crown Court following their acquittal - Credit: PA

One of the four people cleared of criminal damage over the toppling of a statue of slave trade Edward Colston spoke out in court over the racism she said she witnessed while growing up in Norfolk.

Rhian Graham, 30, stood trial with three others accused of illegally removing the monument to the 17th century figure during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol in June 2020.

All four were acquitted at Bristol Crown Court earlier this week in a verdict which has proved controversial, with some politicians saying it could set a "dangerous precedent".

During the trial, Ms Graham, who is a stage manager, talked about her childhood in Norfolk and what she considered to be the prevalence of racism in the community.

Rhian Graham, arrives at Bristol Crown Court where he is accused of criminal damage over the topplin

Rhian Graham, arrives at Bristol Crown Court where she was accused of criminal damage over the toppling of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston - Credit: PA

She said she did not have a background in activism but had "started to make more friends who had more of a passion for history, politics and equality".

"I felt a bit embarrassed about my own knowledge and felt I needed to try and engage more with the world," she said.

"Having grown up in a predominantly white neighbourhood in Norfolk I experienced a lot of casual racism and homophobia and sexism.

File photo dated 07/06/20 of protesters throwing statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour durin

Protesters throwing statue of Edward Colston into Bristol harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest in June 2020 - Credit: PA

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"I didn't think of myself as racist - but the more I understood black people's experience, I felt I had been a terrible ally and could have been more supportive.

"The realisation of my privilege made me feel like I needed to stand in solidarity."  

Ms Graham, who provided one of the ropes used to pull the statue down, said during her trial that before helping to tear it down, she had signed petitions calling for it to be removed. 

She spoke outside the court after being found not guilty of criminal damage by the jury on January 5.

(left to right) Jake Skuse, Sage Willoughby, Milo Ponsford and Rhian Graham outside Bristol Crown Co

The The Colston Four - (left to right) Sage Willoughby, Jake Skuse, Milo Ponsford and Rhian Graham - outside Bristol Crown Court following their acquittal - Credit: PA

"We are ecstatic and stunned. We just want to say thank you to so many people because we have never been alone in this journey, we have been so supported and we are such a small part of this really.

"There were so many people that day, so many people reverberating across the world in response to it. Those 10,000 people who marched through the streets of Bristol in the name of equality. 

Banners outside Bristol Crown Court ahead of the trial of Jake Skuse, Rhian Graham, Milo Ponsford an

Banners outside Bristol Crown Court ahead of the trial of the Colston Four accused of criminal damage over the toppling of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston. - Credit: PA

"All the rope-pullers, the statue-climbers, the rollers, the egg-throwers, the marchers, the placard-holders, you lot are incredible, and the international topplers - the people that went and took their agency and went and changed the landscape of their place.

"We all have the ability to say how our space is decorated and who we venerate and who we celebrate and one thing we know now is that Colston does not represent Bristol."

After the statue was felled, various monuments to Colston were renamed, including a school, a tower block, pub and concert hall.

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