Jury acquits protestors who toppled slaver statue in Bristol

Jurors in Bristol have acquitted the "Colston Four" on charges of criminal damage, finding that protestors who toppled a statue of local slaver Edward Colston during 2020's protests against racism committed no crime. CNN:

After a two-week trial, the group were cleared when a jury at Bristol Crown Court returned not guilty verdicts on Wednesday following three hours of deliberations. Loud cheers erupted from the crown court's public gallery as the four — who opted for their case to be heard by a jury — were cleared.

British conservatives are in uproar, with some, including one minister of parliament, calling for juries to be scrapped altogether. The sitting Attorney General, a Conservative MP, offered a more blandly authoritarian "I love juries, but…" missive on Twitter.

But it's another Tory bigwig, Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is most strenuously arguing otherwise: "juries are the "great sublime protector of liberties," he told Parliament.

"The decision does not set a precedent. It was a case decided by a jury on the facts before them."

Mr Rees-Mogg added: "I think he is right that we should protect monuments, right that they should be removed by due process, but one of our greatest monuments is the jury system which is the greatest protector of our liberties."

There doesn't seem to be any actual admission yet of jury nullification—a "perverse verdict" in UK terminology—in which a jury intentionally refuses to follow the law, for reasons. It would be interesting to see it occur in England under these circumstances, as jury nullification is popularly associated in modern times with American juries refusing to support legal slavery and segregation. England was the origin of the practice of jury nullification, though, part of a popular reaction against draconian punishment for trivial crimes. Nullification is constitutionally part-and-parcel of the jury system—an unavoidable feature of entrusting the finding of fact to a defendant's peers. It benefits conservatives, too: the traditional all-white American jury is an example of how nullification is encouraged when it suits the establishment.

Consider Braverman's call for more legal procedure and guidance at high yet murky levels of the state: it's not so much a demand for show trials (as some on Twitter suggest) as a recommendation for something more ambigiously and inexorably British. "Tell trials," if you like, Kafka with a nice cup of tea ruined by wig dust.

Colston's statue was recovered from the River Avon and, replete with graffiti and dents, is now on exhibition and enjoying a liminal second life as an anti-racist work of art, further irritating British racists.