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A member of the ‘Colston Four’ is set to auction off a signed t-shirt given to them by Banksy ahead of their trial – with the top expected to fetch £20,000.

Rhian Graham, 30, Milo Ponsford, 26, Sage Willoughby, 22, and Jake Skuse, 33, were prosecuted for pulling down the statue of 17th century slave trader Colston during a Black Lives Matter protest in 2020. 

Banksy, the world-famous anonymous street artist who was born in Bristol, gifted the t-shirts to the four defendants who were later cleared of criminal damage.

The t-shirts were made as part of a campaign to raise money for the group and were accompanied by a sale of similar shirts for £25 each.

The tops have a design of the empty plinth that the statue was pulled off of and the word: 'Bristol' above it

The tops have a design of the empty plinth that the statue was pulled off of and the word: 'Bristol' above it

The tops have a design of the empty plinth that the statue was pulled off of and the word: ‘Bristol’ above it

The group's tops featured reversed colours and personally presented to the group by the elusive artist - who also signed them

The group's tops featured reversed colours and personally presented to the group by the elusive artist - who also signed them

The group’s tops featured reversed colours and personally presented to the group by the elusive artist – who also signed them

The tops feature a design of the empty plinth where the statue stood before it was pulled down and the word: ‘Bristol’ above it. 

The limited release of the shirts saw people queuing for hours to buy one. 

The group’s tops featured reversed colours and personally presented to the group by the elusive artist – who also signed them – at a secret location in Bristol where they gathered during the trial.

The tee will open for bids at East Bristol Auctions’ first ever Contemporary Art Auction on May 28 and is valued at £15,000 to £20,000.

East Bristol Auctions spokesman Jay Goodman-Browne said: ‘The toppling of the Edward Colston statue is now regarded by some as one of the defining events of the last decade.

‘This shirt – one of only four made – encapsulates that event.

The tee will open for bids at East Bristol Auctions' first ever Contemporary Art Auction on May 28 and is valued at £15,000 to £20,000

The tee will open for bids at East Bristol Auctions' first ever Contemporary Art Auction on May 28 and is valued at £15,000 to £20,000

The tee will open for bids at East Bristol Auctions’ first ever Contemporary Art Auction on May 28 and is valued at £15,000 to £20,000

‘If Bristol is famous for two things, it’s the toppling of the statue and Banksy, and here we have an item that links the two.

‘This isn’t just a shirt, this is a piece of history.

‘Banksy collectors can quite easily pick up one of the standard shirts, but this is the only shirt available that actually belonged to one of ‘The Four’ and features the alternate artwork.

‘We expect this to get worldwide attention. This shirt is arguably one of Banksy’s most important pieces.’

Rhian Graham, 30, Milo Ponsford, 26, Sage Willoughby, 22, and Jake Skuse, 33, were prosecuted for pulling down the statue of 17th century slave trader Colston during a Black Lives Matter protest in 2020

Rhian Graham, 30, Milo Ponsford, 26, Sage Willoughby, 22, and Jake Skuse, 33, were prosecuted for pulling down the statue of 17th century slave trader Colston during a Black Lives Matter protest in 2020

Rhian Graham, 30, Milo Ponsford, 26, Sage Willoughby, 22, and Jake Skuse, 33, were prosecuted for pulling down the statue of 17th century slave trader Colston during a Black Lives Matter protest in 2020

During the trial, defence teams successfully argued the presence of the statue was a hate crime and it was therefore not an offence to remove it.

But prosecutors said it was a case of straightforward criminal damage.

The trial judge directed jurors to consider whether convicting the defendants would be a ‘proportionate interference’ with their right to freedom of expression. They were acquitted by a jury after an 11-day trial.

After the acquittal, furious Tory MPs wrote to Britain’s chief legal advisor urging her to review the jury’s ‘wrong’ verdict as public backlash at their decision grew. 

Ministers are set to press ahead with sweeping changes to legislation following the jury’s decision to clear Rhian Graham, 30, Milo Ponsford, 26, Sage Willoughby, 22, and Jake Skuse, 33, of all charges at Bristol Crown Court.

Six men and six women, taken from Bristol’s population of 500,000, served on the jury. Judge Peter Blair QC allowed them to make a majority ruling.

Former Justice Secretary Robert Buckland described the jury’s decision as ‘perverse’ as Sir John Hayes MP, who leads the Common Sense Group, called the verdict ‘very disappointing’ and argued that the trial should never have been heard in Bristol.

The former minister told MailOnline at the time of the trial: ‘This should have been a straightforward matter for the jury, who were certainly devoid of understanding of the definition of criminal damage – If you damage, destroy of deface property without permission, you are guilty by definition.

‘Clearly, the wrong decision has been made here. The case should never have even been heard at Crown Court, nor should it have been heard in Bristol considering the rhetoric surrounding this trial.

‘I will be writing to the Attorney general tomorrow on behalf of The Common Sense Group to address these concerns.’

His comments came as Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the UK was ‘not a country where destroying public property can ever be acceptable’ after a jury cleared four vandals who admitted playing a part in the destruction of the historic statue of slave trader Edward Colston during Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.

Source: Daily Mail

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