(CNN) — Anti-racism protesters in England have pulled down a statue of a 17th-century slave trader while demonstrating in solidarity with the US Black Lives Matter movement.
The protesters in the city of Bristol, in southwest England, tied the bronze statue of Edward Colston with rope before toppling it to cheers from the surrounding crowd.
Demonstrators were later seen rolling the statue to the nearby harbor and throwing it into the River Avon.
While the incident garnered much celebration among protesters, local police say an investigation has been launched into the incident.
“There was a small group of people who clearly committed an act of criminal damage in pulling down a statue near Bristol Harbourside,” Avon and Somerset police said Sunday in a statement. “An investigation will be carried out to identify those involved and we are already collating footage of the incident.”
The statue of Colston had stood in Bristol’s city center since 1895 but had become increasingly controversial, with petitions created to demand its removal.
‘Reviled slave trader’
The Museums of Bristol website describes Colston as a “revered philanthropist / reviled slave trader.”
It says he was born in the city in 1636, but spent his working life in London, becoming “an active member of the governing body of the RAC [Royal African Company], which traded in enslaved Africans, for 11 years.”
The site says Colston gave away most of his fortune to charity with restrictions to ensure beneficiaries matched his religious affiliations.
According to local police, Sunday’s Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol was attended by an estimated 10,000 people.
“The vast majority of those who came to voice their concerns about racial inequality and injustice did so peacefully and respectfully,” Avon and Somerset police said.
“Keeping the public safe was out greatest priority and thankfully there were no instances of disorder and no arrests were made,” police added.