Cecil Rhodes: Protesters Demand The Removal of Imperialist Statue In Oxford

A petition to remove the statue has been signed more than 110,000 times.

Hundreds of anti-racism protesters have gathered in Oxford to demand that a statue of imperialist Cecil Rhodes is torn down.

Campaigners say the statue – which stands outside Oxford University’s Oriel College – calls into question whether the university is “truly dedicated to equality and racial justice”.

A petition to remove the statue has been signed more than 110,000 times.

While the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ campaign to remove the monument was first launched in 2016, there have been renewed calls in recent weeks as the Black Lives Matter movement has gained support in the UK.

Some 26 city councillors have backed the campaign in its call to pull down the statue, HuffPost UK revealed on Monday.

In Oxford on Tuesday evening, several hundred people joined together outside Oriel College below the Rhodes statue chanting “take it down”.

Later, protesters held up their fists in silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds in memory of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody after a white officer knelt on his neck.

The demonstration outside Oriel College in Oxford ended with people leaving their signs on the outside of the building.

Campaigner Jabu Nala-Hartley, 49, gave a speech to the crowd.

“I am deeply humbled by the rapid response of the Black Lives Matter movement. Its sheer capacity is a symbol of the frustration of Black people,” she said.

“We are feeling elevated that the whole world is on our side calling out racism! The whole world is reiterating the old message that we are being persecuted by the police, by the system and that our plight is not a new narrative.”

“This is an old reality,” she added.

“Our struggles are intertwined we are part of global capitalism unleashed by neoliberalism. Our Blackness is a long overdue struggle against the violence of the system.”

Some demonstrators remained and were playing music in the street, and a police officer was seen “taking a knee” and briefly kneeling in the crowd.

This was met with cheers by the remaining protesters.

Ndjodi Ndeunyema, a law student and one of the organisers of the demonstration, said the protest was “to express solidarity with Black Lives Matter around the world, particularly in the US and the recent happenings there”.

He told the PA news agency the demonstration was a response to a global conversation about problematic symbolism, “particularly statues that celebrate people who are not worthy of celebration”.

Supporters of the Rhodes Must Fall group, wearing protective masks against the spread of coronavirus, participate in a protest calling for the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes, a Victorian imperialist in southern Africa who made a fortune from mines and endowed the university's Rhodes scholarships, beneath the statue which stands on the facade of Oriel College, in Oxford, England, Tuesday, June 9, 2020. More statues of imperialist figures could be removed from Britain's streets, following the toppling of a monument to slave trader Edward Colston in the city of Bristol, the mayor of London said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Supporters of the Rhodes Must Fall group, wearing protective masks against the spread of coronavirus, participate in a protest calling for the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes, a Victorian imperialist in southern Africa who made a fortune from mines and endowed the university's Rhodes scholarships, beneath the statue which stands on the facade of Oriel College, in Oxford, England, Tuesday, June 9, 2020. More statues of imperialist figures could be removed from Britain's streets, following the toppling of a monument to slave trader Edward Colston in the city of Bristol, the mayor of London said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Waqas Mirza, Oxford student and one of the hosts of the Uncomfortable Oxford walking tour, which highlights the “legacy of inequality“ in the city, spoke to demonstrators.

He told the crowd: “We look up to be inspired, we look up for gods and you give us this murderer.”

Several demonstrators have referenced reports that Oriel College refused to remove the statue in 2016 due to fears that donors would distance themselves from the college.

Mirza added: “Maybe you should think more wisely about where your donations come from.”

He continued: “They say we don’t have enough time to take all the statues down, we have all the time in the world and this is just the beginning.”

Supporters of the Rhodes Must Fall group chant slogans during a protest calling for the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes, a Victorian imperialist in southern Africa who made a fortune from mines and endowed the university's Rhodes scholarships, beneath the statue which stands on the facade of Oriel College, in Oxford, England, Tuesday, June 9, 2020. More statues of imperialist figures could be removed from Britain's streets, following the toppling of a monument to slave trader Edward Colston in the city of Bristol, the mayor of London said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Supporters of the Rhodes Must Fall group chant slogans during a protest calling for the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes, a Victorian imperialist in southern Africa who made a fortune from mines and endowed the university's Rhodes scholarships, beneath the statue which stands on the facade of Oriel College, in Oxford, England, Tuesday, June 9, 2020. More statues of imperialist figures could be removed from Britain's streets, following the toppling of a monument to slave trader Edward Colston in the city of Bristol, the mayor of London said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
ASSOCIATED PRESS

On Sunday, a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was torn down by protesters in Bristol and thrown into the harbour.

In a statement, Oriel College said it “abhors racism and discrimination in all its forms”.

“As a college, we continue to debate and discuss the issues raised by the presence on our site of examples of contested heritage relating to Cecil Rhodes,” a spokesperson said.

“Speaking out against injustice and discrimination is vital and we are committed to doing so.

“We will continue to examine our practices and strive to improve them to ensure that Oriel is open to students and staff of all backgrounds, and we are determined to build a more equal and inclusive community and society.”

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