Black Lives Matter Organiser Who Helped Run Demo That Toppled Edward Colston’s Statue Is Charged With Fraud
Harry Howard, Daily Mail, November 11, 2022
One of the organisers of the Black Lives Matter demonstration that saw the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue has been charged with fraud over a fundraiser linked to the protest movement.
Xahra Saleem, 22, will appear before magistrates in Bristol in January charged with two counts of fraud by abuse of position of trust after an investigation into a fundraising page attached to the BLM movement.
The first fundraiser was for the demonstration that saw the statue of Edward Colston toppled in Bristol back in 2020, and a second one set up to help support the people arrested afterwards.
Avon and Somerset Police investigated a GoFundMe page called ‘BristBLM’ initially set up for the demonstration on June 7, 2020 after donation money allegedly went missing.
The fundraiser was intended to raise cash for Changing Your Mindset, which was a youth group based in the St Pauls area of Bristol.
Saleem also faces charges relating to a Crowdfunder page, ‘Bristol Protestors Legal Fees’, which raised money for people facing criminal proceedings after the city’s protests.
Police made the arrest following allegations made by those running Changing Your Mindset.
Four people were cleared in court of causing criminal damage in January this year after protests in June 2020 saw the toppling of the statue of 18th Century slave trader Colston.
The depiction was thrown into Bristol harbour during the protests following the death of black man George Floyd in the US.
Saleem describes herself as a screenwriter and was a co-founder of the All Black Lives Bristol group created after the demonstrations.
She was named among 30 of the most influential under-30s in Bristol by Rife Magazine last year.
In a statement, an Avon & Somerset Police spokesman said: ‘A woman is due in court at the start of next year after the Crown Prosecution Service authorised charges following a fraud investigation.
‘Xahra Saleem, 22 and from East London, has been charged with two counts of fraud by abuse of position.
‘She is due before Bristol Magistrates Court on Tuesday 3 January 2023.’
It has not been suggested that any others involved in the creation of All Black Lives Bristol were involved in Saleem’s alleged fraudulent activities.
Earlier this year, the clearing of the four protesters who took part in the toppling of Colston’s statue – Rhian Graham, Milo Ponsford, Sage Willoughby and Jake Skuse – sparked uproar in some quarters.
Campaigners said the move gave the ‘green light to political vandalism’.
The Colston statue was toppled in June 2020 amid a wave of protests in the UK, the US and elsewhere.
Left-wing protesters drew up a list of statues of historical figures to target, including Oliver Cromwell, King Charles II and First World War hero Lord Kitchener.
The statue of Winston Churchill outside Parliament was also daubed with graffiti branding the former PM a racist, leading to it being covered up to prevent further damage.
Since the toppling of Colston’s statue, which was later displayed on its side in M Shed Museum in Bristol, the name of the slave trader has been purged from the city.
His name was removed from dozens of schools, concert venues and pubs.
One of the first to take action in 2018 was Colston Primary School, which renamed itself Cotham Gardens primary school after the majority of parents, pupils and former students agreed to the change.
In April this year, the £15,000-a-year private school founded by Colston was renamed.
What had been the Colston’s School will become ‘Collegiate’ from September. Its governors denied the move was an attempt to change or deny history.