In the Belgian capital of Brussels, where thousands joined a Black Lives Matter rally, protesters clambered Sunday onto the statue of former King Leopold II and chanted "reparations", according to video posted on social media.
There have been protests globally over racial justice after the death of George Floyd, a black American, in police custody last month.
The statue of Edward Colston, erected in 1895 has always been a divisive image in the city, and was subject to a petition signed by 11,000 people seeking its removal, due to Colston's active role in the slave trade.
"Whilst I am disappointed that people would damage one of our statues, I do understand why it's happened, it's very symbolic", said police chief Andy Bennett. During his time with the company, he was instrumental in the transportation of tens of thousands of West Africans to the West Indies .
Protesters throw a statue of slave trader Edward Colston into Bristol harbor on Sunday during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol, England. His wealth came largely from his Royal African Company, which transported around 100,000 slaves from Africa to the Americas.
Oxford University saw an angry but unsuccessful campaign to remove a statue of 19th-century British imperialist Cecil Rhodes, and debate over its future still rages.
Police have launched a criminal damage investigation into what happened to the statue, which has always been a source of controversy in the city where it has been situated since 1895.
"I think that is utterly disgraceful and that speaks to the acts of public disorder that have actually now become a distraction from the cause in which people are protesting about", she told Sky News.
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The interplay between the past and the present in the city, where Colston grew rich on the back of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, has sparked debate in the United Kingdom over structural racism closer to home.
"I know the removal of the Colston Statue will divide opinion, as the statue itself has done for many years", the mayor said in a statement.
Had the city council been able to broker an agreement on the wording of a new plaque that was due to be appended to the statue, acknowledging Colston's crimes and victims, it may never have been so spectacularly toppled.
Colston was also a Tory member of parliament and philanthropist, donating huge funds to support schools, hospitals, almshouses and churches in Bristol.
Labour Party lawmaker Clive Lewis tweeted support for the statue's removal.
Protesters in Bristol, England, took matters into their hands and tore down the statue of a slave trader, then threw the statue into the harbor. Such statues are a flashpoint of controversy in the US.
Previously, campaigners had gathered a petition of 11,000 signatures as part of an effort to have the statue removed.
The statue, which had been covered for the protest, had the canvas shrouding it pulled off. In 2017, it was announced that Colston Hall - a music venue in the city - would be renamed ahead of the events space reopening in 2020.