Four people have been charged with criminal damage in connection with the toppling of a statue of a 17th-century British slave trader, prosecutors have said.
The defendants, aged between 21 and 32, will appear before magistrates in Bristol, western England, on January 25, the Crown Prosecution Service said in a statement on Wednesday.
The bronze statue of Edward Colston, a former top official in the Royal African Company, was pulled down during an anti-racism protest on June 7.
Its toppling was part of protests in several countries against racism and slavery, sparked by the death of a Black American man, George Floyd, at the hands of police in Minneapolis, United States, in May.
The statue was dragged through the city and dumped in the harbour. Bristol City Council later recovered it and said damage estimated at a cost of 3,750 pounds ($5,000) had been caused.
No arrests were made at the time but the CPS, which handles prosecutions in England and Wales, said it “authorised the charges following a review of a file of evidence” from the police.
The Royal African Company sent hundreds of thousands of men, women and children from West Africa into slavery in the Caribbean and the Americas.
Many were branded with the company’s initials.
Colston was also a Conservative Party member of Parliament and philanthropist. He was a major benefactor to Bristol, with streets and institutions named after him.
The statue-toppling sparked a debate about racism, historical commemoration, and calls on the United Kingdom to reassess the legacy of its colonial past, including prominent individuals involved in, or who profited from, the slave trade.
In September, Bristol’s Colston Hall arts and entertainment venue announced it was changing its name to Bristol Beacon, saying it did not want to be associated with him.
In October, a majority of staff and pupils at Colston’s Girls’ School in the city voted for a change of name after a consultation.
In July, a sculpture depicting a Black woman who helped pull down the Colston statue was installed on the empty plinth, before being removed by the city council.
Earlier this month, a figure of Star Wars character Darth Vader briefly topped the structure.
City authorities fished the Colston statue out of the harbour and say it will be placed in a museum, along with placards from the Black Lives Matter demonstration.