An organiser of the Black Lives Matter protest that saw the toppling of slave trader Edward Colston’s statue has denied stealing ‘tens of thousands’ from donors. Xahra Saleem entered not guilty pleas to two charges of fraud when she appeared at Bristol Magistrates Court on Tuesday (January 3).
The 22-year-old was taken into court wearing a black niqab and long navy blue trench coat and spoke only to confirm her name, address, date of birth, and to give her pleas. She is accused of stealing thousands of pounds raised through a GoFundMe page called ‘BristBLM’ initially set up for the demonstration on June 7, 2020 to cover the cost of Covid PPE mitigation equipment.
The fundraiser was also intended to raise cash for Changing Your Mindset, which was a Bristol-based youth group that has since dissolved. Saleem additionally faces charges relating to a Crowdfunder page, ‘Bristol Protestors Legal Fees’, which raised money for people facing criminal proceedings after the city’s protests.
Four people were cleared in court of causing criminal damage in January of 2022 after protests in June 2020 saw the toppling of controversial figure Edward Colston.
Both charges of fraud read out in court to Ms Saleem alleged that while acting as an organiser for campaign groups ABL Bristol and Changing Your Mindset Ltd she "dishonestly abused that position intending thereby to make a gain, namely used the funds raised, for [her]self".
The charges stated that Ms Saleem allegedly committed the offences while at an address in Tadpole Garden Village in Swindon, “or elsewhere”. Ms Saleem gave her present address as Briars Walk, Romford, Essex.
District Judge Lynne Matthews adjourned Ms Saleem’s case and sent it to Bristol Crown Court for a hearing on January 30.