Black Lives Matter: Calls revived to dump Oxford University statue of Cecil Rhodes

9 June 2020, 08:52

Campaigners say Oxford University has not addressed institutional racism on its grounds
Campaigners say Oxford University has not addressed institutional racism on its grounds. Picture: PA
Rachael Kennedy

By Rachael Kennedy

Campaigners at Oxford University have revived calls to remove a controversial statue of imperialist Cecil Rhodes from one of its college campuses.

Thousands of people have signed two petitions to see the removal of the statue - situated at Oxford's Oriel College - saying the university had "failed to address institutional racism".

The calls to remove it have been ongoing for years, but were reignited recently amid a series of anti-racism protests up and down the country that saw the dumping of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol's harbour.

READ MORE: Members of the public scrub graffiti off Churchill statue - 'Defacing it is one step too far'

READ MORE: Key moments from a weekend of Black Lives Matter protests

An open letter from campaigners, including the Rhodes Must Fall Oxford group, told the university vice-chancellor that only "inconsequential inroads" had been made to address symbolic imperialism, and that this was "not enough".

It laid out five steps to "make upholding anti-racist values a reality" at the university that it would like to see implemented.

Later on Tuesday, protesters are scheduled to gather in front of the statue as part of a Black Lives Matter protest to reaffirm calls to remove imperialist iconography.

Femi Nylander, one of the original campaigners with Rhodes Must Fall, which was launched at Cape Town University in South Africa in 2015, said "a series of promises" were made by Oxford University five years earlier to black students about curriculum and representation - but says these were never met.

He hopes the revived debate around racist and imperialist iconography after the fall of the Colston's statue will bring about change.

READ MORE: 'History has been made' - Bristolians react to toppling of Edward Colston statue

READ MORE: 36 people arrested in London during Sunday's Black Lives Matter protests

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Layla Moran said the statues of white supremacists and slave merchants "should not be standing in our cities".

"That is why the statue of Cecil Rhodes must come down."

She added: "I'm not endorsing vigilante action, but I would urge Oriel College in the strongest terms to think about what message this statue sense in 2020 - and to remove it."