Black Lives Matter protesters march through Oxford ahead of meeting at Oriel College on taking down statue of Cecil Rhodes : International de Ghana
Black Lives Matter protesters have marched through the streets of Oxford today as senior college board members prepare to discuss the future of a monument to Cecil Rhodes.
The ardent imperialist and mining magnate in southern Africa is one of dozens of names appearing on a list of statues protesters want to see removed for their links to racism and colonialism.
Tomorrow board members at Oriel College, which opened in the Rhodes College in his name in 1911, will meet to discuss the future of the 19th century politician, for whom Rhodesia, present day Zambia and Zimbabwe, was named after.Protests were peaceful as students and Oxfordians marched from Union Street to Oriel College, which opened its Rhodes Building in 1911 after receiving a £100,000 from the former student, who died in 1902.
One of the orange high-vis clad organisers was father-of-four James Kimani.
He said: ‘This is the first time I have protested, I am doing it for my four sons. I moved here to Oxford in 1998 and I have experienced racial inequality.
‘Police in the USA are worse but it still happens here. There was a time when there was a policeman who stopped me for no reason and I was kept in a police cell for 24 hours. It just proves it does happen here.
‘For me it is less about the statue of Rhodes than the movement itself, if people want to tear it down and decolonise I’m all for it. Let’s see what we can do,’ the 46-year-old added.
It is the latest chapter in the controversial statue’s removal.
In 2015 students at the University of Cape Town successfully lobbied to have a statue of the imperialist taken down. However attempts to change the name of Rhodes University were unsuccessful. The Rhodes Must Fall campaign soon arrived at Oxford. In January 2016 students voted to remove the statue in a poll not affiliated with the university.
To date the statue still stands, but recent Black Lives Matter protests have brought up feelings the statue should be removed – particularly in the wake of a monument to Edward Colston being pulled down and dumped in the harbour in Bristol.
The statue of Cecil Rhodes was erected in his honour by Oxford University’s Oriel College after he made a donation for a new building.
Earlier today the Rhodes Must Fall Oxford movement tweeted: ‘Oriel College Governing Body will meet tomorrow 17th June 2020 to decide the fate of the statue. Join #RhodesMustFall at the #BlackLivesMatter march TODAY – lets remind Oriel the world is watching. #Decolonise you heard right this is #FreedomSummer’
Speaking from today’s March was 38-year-old Vkeana Bastita who was FaceTiming her niece in the Dominican Republic.’I think it’s brilliant. I’ve been FaceTiming my niece because she loves to see this, we are making a change.
‘I was only visiting Oxford but I felt I needed to get involved in such a necessary cause. She loved it, she was chanting along,’ she said.
Critics argue Rhodes paved the way for the apartheid in southern Africa, and raise issue with his time as leader of the Cape Colony, from 1890 to 1896, when government restricted black Africans’ rights by increasing the financial criteria people required in order to vote.In 2003, Nelson Mandela joined forces in 2003 with the Rhodes Trust – the charity set up by Cecil Rhodes’ widow to fund educational scholarships – to form the Mandela Rhodes Foundation to help build a ‘better future’ for disadvantaged Africans.
Standing in London’s Westminster Hall at its launch, anti-apartheid leader Mr Mandela declared it a ‘symbolic moment in the closing of the historic circle’.
‘In this, I am certain, Cecil John Rhodes and I would have made common cause,’ Mr Mandela said at the time.The University of Oxford’s Chancellor, Lord Patten, accused protestors of ‘hypocrisy’, stating that a scholarship created by Rhodes had benefitted hundreds of scholars, with a fifth coming from Africa.
‘For me there is a bit of hypocrisy in Oxford taking money for 100 scholars a year, about a fifth of them from Africa, to come to Oxford, and then saying we want to throw the Rhodes statue in the Thames,’ Lord Patten told this medium.
‘For all the problems associated with Cecil Rhodes’s history, if it was all right for Mandela, then I have to say it’s pretty well all right with me.’Last week Oriel College issued a statement, which read: ‘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.
‘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.’
Topple the Racists, which has listed dozens of statues it wants to see removed across Britain, describes Rhodes as a ‘white supremacist’.
Listing Mr Rhodes on its website, the group wrote: ‘Oriel College, University of Oxford, has refused to take down this statue of Rhodes despite protests.’Oxford claims to be in support of creating an equal space for students of all backgrounds, but how can they with a glorified white supremacist as a figurehead for one of their colleges?
‘Oxford needs to take down the statue of Cecil Rhodes if they are ever to prove that the University is truly dedicated to equality and racial justice.’
The activists behind Topple the Racists have said they were inspired by the ‘direct action taken by Bristolians’, referring to the tearing down of slave trader Edward Colston’s statue on two weeks ago, before it was thrown into the harbour.In details showing how statues are chosen, the website says the hit list includes ‘cases where there is responsibility for colonial violence’, adding that ‘judgement calls’ had been on cases where history is more ‘complicated’.
Memorials to monarchs such as King Charles II and King James II make appearances on the list, as well as Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell.
Monuments have been targeted in 39 towns and cities, with 12 located in London, and six in Bristol. Five of the one in Bristol celebrate Colston, including two schools, a tower and a renowned music venue which is set to change its when it reopens in the autumn.
Responding to the suggestions that some buildings built with the profits of the slave trade could be torn down, the group said they can ‘just be renamed’.