UK Black Lives Matter protesters tip statue of slave trader Edward Colston into Bristol Harbour

Black Lives Matter protesters in the UK have toppled a statue of a 17th-century slave trader into a harbour.

Key points:

  • Protesters appear to kneel on the neck of the statue, recalling the death of George Floyd
  • A Winston Churchill statue in London was also defaced
  • PM Boris Johnson says those responsible for "thuggery" and attacks on police will be "held to account"

And after another day of clashes between London police and protesters, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said global demonstrations sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minnesota on May 25 had been "subverted by thuggery".

Venting their anger at England's colonial history in the port of Bristol, west of London, demonstrators attached ropes to the statue of Edward Colston before pulling it down to cheers from the crowd.

Images show protesters appearing to kneel on the statue's neck, recalling the death of Mr Floyd.

Mr Floyd, a black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on his neck even after he pleaded for air while lying handcuffed on the ground.

The Colston statue was removed from the avenue bearing the merchant's name and eventually rolled into the city's harbour.

Protesters appeared to invoke the death of George Floyd by kneeling on the neck of the statue.(AP: Ben Birchall/PA)

Colston, who was born in 1636, has been a controversial figure in Bristol.

Among efforts to "decolonise" the city have been calls to remove his name from its biggest music venue, Colston Hall.

In his 40s, Colston was prominently involved in Britain's sole official slaving company at the time, the Royal African Company, which transported tens of thousands of Africans across the Atlantic Ocean, mainly to the Caribbean.

According to the BBC, he also served as an MP, donated to churches and hospitals and founded homeless shelters and a school.

Bristol, an international port, was a centre of the slave trade and benefited hugely financially.

Britain formally abolished the slave trade in 1807.

UK Black Lives Matter protesters tip statue of slave trader Edward Colston into Bristol Harbour Protesters in Bristol tore down the statue from its plinth and tossed it into Bristol Harbour.(PA: Ben Birchall via AP)

Violence a 'betrayal of the cause', PM says

In London, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets on Sunday local time, rallying for a second day running.

But as numbers dwindled, some protesters tussled with police.

It came after 14 police officers were injured, two seriously, and 29 people arrested on Saturday when protesters clashed with mounted police near the Prime Minister's Downing Street residence.

Mr Johnson warned those responsible for "thuggery" would be held to account.

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"People have a right to protest peacefully and while observing social distancing but they have no right to attack the police," Mr Johnson said on Twitter.

"These demonstrations have been subverted by thuggery and they are a betrayal of the cause they purport to serve.

Those responsible will be held to account."

Churchill statue defaced

Colston's was not the only statue targeted on Sunday.

Protesters also defaced the statue of former British prime minister and World War II victor Winston Churchill in central London, crossing out his last name and spray-painting "was a racist" underneath.

They also taped a Black Lives Matter sign around its mid-section.

To detractors, Churchill's views on the superiority of white people, his refusal to distribute wheat to starving people in India in 1943 and disparaging remarks about Mahatma Gandhi are evidence for a crueller statesman.

Kids today will 'experience what we have experienced'

The day's demonstration in London had begun around the US embassy, where thousands congregated -- most, it seemed, wearing masks to protect against coronavirus -- to protest Mr Floyd's death and to shine a light on racial inequalities at home.

Pauline Nandoo, 60, said she had been protesting about racism since the 1970s and the images of violence at the end of Saturday's protest had not deterred her.

"There are children of all ages and older adults here," said Ms Nandoo, who was with her brother and 13-year-old daughter.

"They are going to experience what we have experienced, and we have to try to make that not happen."

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said violence was "simply not acceptable" and urged those protesting to do so lawfully while also maintaining social distancing by remaining 2 metres apart.

Hundreds of people also formed a densely packed crowd in a square in central Manchester, kneeling in silence as a mark of respect for Mr Floyd.

In Belgium, protesters clambered onto the statue of former King Leopold II in the capital Brussels and chanted "reparations", according to footage posted on social media.

The word "shame" was also graffitied on the monument, reference perhaps to the fact that Leopold is said to have reigned over the mass death of 10 million Congolese.

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