London - British politicians on Monday condemned the destruction of a statue to a leading slave trader during an anti-racism protest, but a leading heritage body said there was no need to reinstate it.

Demonstrators pulled down the 18-foot (5.5-metre) bronze monument to Edward Colston in the southwest English city of Bristol and threw it into the harbour on Sunday. The protest was one of many across Britain in recent days in response to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of police in the United States.Most marches were peaceful but there were flashes of violence, including in London, where the statue of World War II leader Winston Churchill in Parliament Square was defaced.Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the clashes as "a betrayal of the cause they purport to serve".

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the toppling of the Bristol statue was "utterly disgraceful" and one of her ministers, Kit Malthouse, said charges should be brought. "A crime was committed, criminal damage was committed, there should be evidence gathered and a prosecution should follow," he told the BBC on Monday.