Edward Colston
Protesters throw a statue of slave trader Edward Colston into the Bristol harbour, during a Black Lives Matter protest rally, in Bristol, England, Sunday June 7, 2020, in response to the recent killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, USA, that has led to protests in many countries and across the US. Image Credit: AP

London: British protesters tore down the statue of a renowned slave trader and threw it in the harbour on the second day of weekend protests against George Floyd's death.

Footage shot by a witness showed a few dozen people tie a rope around the neck of Edward Colston's statue and bring it to the ground in the southwestern city of Bristol.

They then stomped on it for a few minutes before carrying it and shoving it into the harbour with a great cheer.

Colston's face got splashed with red paint at one point.

"Today I witness history," eye witness William Want tweeted.

"The statue of Edward Colston, a Bristol slave trader, was torn down, defaced, and thrown in the river. #BlackLivesMatter."

But Home Secretary Priti Patel called the toppling "utterly disgraceful" and the local police department promised to carry out an investigation.

Local police chief Andy Bennett said around 10,000 people attended the city's "Black Lives Matter" demonstration.

"The vast majority of those who came to voice their concerns about racial inequality and injustice did so peacefully and respectfully," he said.

"However, there was a small group of people who clearly committed an act of criminal damage in pulling down a statue near Bristol Harbourside."

Colston grew up in a wealthy merchant family and became a member of the British parliament before his death in 1721.

He developed a reputation as a philanthropist who donated to charitable causes such as schools and hospitals in Bristol and London.

His statue stood on Bristol's Colston's Avenue. The city also has a school named in his honour.

Britons have joined a wave of global race protests this weekend over the death of Floyd during a police arrest.