Black Lives Matter: Oriel College to remove Rhodes statue

Protestors claim victory as college board expresses wish to remove controversial Rhodes statue

The board of Oriel College, Oxford University has voted to take down the controversial statue of imperialist Cecil Rhodes.

The decision follows a campaign for the statue’s removal that began in 2015, as part of the global Rhodes Must Fall movement. In what was seen as deference to a number of financial donors, in 2016 the college opted not to remove the statue but proposed changes to it that would “draw attention to this history [and] do justice to the complexity of the debate”.

The campaign was reignited by the recent Black Lives Matter protests, which also saw Bristol’s Edward Colston torn down by protestors.

Oriel College’s governing body also voted on Wednesday to launch an independent commission into the issues surrounding the Rhodes statue.

A statement from the college said: “Both of these decisions were reached after a thoughtful period of debate and reflection and with the full awareness of the impact these decisions are likely to have in Britain and around the world.

“The Commission will deal with the issue of the Rhodes legacy and how to improve access and attendance of BAME undergraduate, graduate students and faculty, together with a review of how the college’s 21st Century commitment to diversity can sit more easily with its past.”

The commission will invite contributions from members of Rhodes Must Fall campaign, Oxford University students, the city council, and residents of Oxford.

Worcester College, Oxford’s governing body also voted for the statue’s removal as, it has been reported, at least one other Oxford college.

Campaigners have said protests will continue while the statue, which is positioned on the college’s facade overlooking Oxford’s high street, remains in place.

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