Rhodes will Oxford college backs statue removal

LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — A University of Oxford college yesterday voted in favour of removing a statue of colonialist Cecil Rhodes, less than a fortnight after thousands of protestors called for it to be taken down.

Oriel College said in a statement that it also wanted to set up an independent inquiry into the “key issues” surrounding the statue.

The statement said the college’s governing body “expressed their wish to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes and the King Edwards Street Plaque”.

It added, the decision was made after “a thoughtful period of debate and reflection”.

The decision comes after a large protest by the Rhodes Must Fall campaign on June 9, with demonstrators chanting “Take it down!” and “Decolonise!”

A campaign, which started four years ago to remove the statue, was reignited by the global explosion of Black Lives Matter demonstrations, following the killing in the US of African American George Floyd.

Campaigners had also demanded changes to the Rhodes scholarship, which has been awarded to more than 8,000 overseas students to study at University of Oxford, since 1902.

Oriel’s statement said it would examine how to improve access and attendance of black, Asian and minority ethnic undergraduate and graduate students.

Statues commemorating Britain’s colonial past have become the focus of anger in recent weeks, most dramatically with the toppling of a memorial to the slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol.

In addition, a London statue of British wartime leader Winston Churchill was controversially boxed up after anti-racism protests.

Rhodes was a mining magnate in southern Africa in the 1890s. He studied at Oxford and left money to Oriel College after his death in 1902.

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