The gruesome killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer and the widespread protests that ensued, have resonated with people throughout the world. Thousands have taken to streets in the United Kingdom to protest against racism and police brutality and show solidarity with the George Floyd protesters in the U.S.

In such a charged atmosphere, demonstrators in Bristol toppled the statue of Edward Colston, a 17th-century slave trader, and threw his bronze bust into Bristol Harbour. The 5.5-meter statue stood at Colston Avenue since 1895, before it was pulled down by angry protesters.

Who was Edward Colston?

Edward Colston statue toppled
Twitter/Dr Benjamin Janaway

A divided figure in the U.K., Colston was born in 1636 in a wealthy merchant family in Bristol. He did his schooling in London and spent a large part of his life in the city. By 1672, he established his own business of trading in slaves, cloth, wine and sugar, BBC reported. In 1680, he joined the Royal African Company (RAC), which had a monopoly in slave trading. Between 1672-1689, the company traded in about 100,000 slaves; men, women and children alike, and Colston made the bulk of his fortune through the company.

The RAC was headed by the brother of King Charles II, who later succeeded him as James II. In 1689, Colston sold his shares in the company to William III, also known as William of Orange, who deposed James in the Glorious Revolution. Colston was also a philanthropist, having donated for charitable causes, such as schools, hospitals and almshouses. Numerous Bristol landmarks are named after him, largely due to his philanthropy.

He served briefly as a Tory MP. He died in 1721 at Mortlake, Surrey and was buried in All Saints Church in Bristol.

Edward Colston's statue demolished

The public has largely been divided over the legacy of Edward Colston, who was both a philanthropist and a slave-trader. On Sunday, protesters surrounded the 125-year-old statue and tore it down. Many climbed on the fallen statue, while several stood on the plinth where it once stood. They then dragged it to the Bristol Harbour and threw it into it, drawing claps and jubilation from the crowd.