Fears statue of colonialist Rhodes will be torn down at Black Lives Matter protest in Oxford today

FEARS have been raised a statue of imperialist Cecil Rhodes could be pulled down by protesters tonight – days after the toppling of Edward Colston's statue in Bristol.

The Rhodes Must Fall Oxford campaign group has called for the image of the controversial mining magnate and empire builder to be removed from Oriel College, arguing the university has "failed to address its institutional racism".

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It comes after a statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down and dumped into Bristol Harbour during a Black Lives Matter protest on Sunday.

Demonstrators will protest in front of the Rhodes statue on the High Street in Oxford this evening as part of the Black Lives Matter movement.

A sign saying "Rhodes, you're next" was taped to The University Church of St Mary the Virgin, opposite the statue, on Sunday.

One Twitter user wrote: "Hoping that the Rhodes statue gets smashed in Oxford today."

Author Jason Hickel tweeted: "Today, Rhodes Must Fall. If the students choose to remove the statue themselves, I support them. There is no justification for elevating an imperialist who vandalized a continent in the name of white supremacy. The statue has to go."

An open letter from campaigners to the university's vice-chancellor claims the institution has only made "inconsequential inroads" into tackling the material legacy of imperialism, adding it "is not enough".

Thousands of people have signed two new petitions calling for the statue of colonialist Rhodes at Oriel College to be taken down.

It comes amid a wider "decolonise" movement sweeping universities across the world in recent years.

The Rhodes Must Fall movement was established in 2015 at Cape Town University, and later spread to Oxford, where students demanded the statue of Rhodes was removed from Oriel College.

In 2016, Oriel College decided to keep the statue following threats from wealthy donors to withdraw £100million in funding. 

And now, in an open letter to the University of Oxford's vice-chancellor, campaigners said "none of the demands of the movement have been met and student protests and concerns continue to be dismissed by senior members of the university".

Campaigners from the Rhodes Must Fall group argued the row illustrated Britain's "imperial blind spot".

Femi Nylander, one of the original Rhodes Must Fall campaigners, said the university made "a series of promises" to black students around the curriculum and access and representation following the movement in 2015.

But he said these never materialised and the statue was not removed.

He added: "They should not be continuing to celebrate this man. Having a statue is a celebration."

The open letter to the university, signed by more than 6,600 individuals and organisations, outlines five steps that campaigners want the university to take to "make upholding anti-racist values a reality".

Who was Cecil Rhodes?

CECIL Rhodes was a 19th century mining magnate who helped Victorian Britain colonise much of Southern Africa and held opinions that now offend modern values.

Rhodes was one of the era' most famous imperialists, with Rhodesia – now Zimbabwe and Zambia – named after him.  

Born in Bishop's Stortford in 1853, he was a sickly child before
heading to Africa aged 17.

He grew cotton before moving into diamond mining, founding the De Beers firm.

As Prime Minister of the Cape Colony from 1890 to 1896, his government restricted the rights of black Africans by setting financial qualifications for voting.

He attended Oriel College in 1873. On his death in 1902 the Rhodes Scholarship was set up to help non-British students study at Oxford.

Rhodes Scholars include Bill Clinton and three former Australian PMs.

Students campaigned to have the figure of Victorian empire builder torn down in 2016 over claims he was a racist.

But Oriel College decided to keep it following threats from wealthy donors to withdraw £100million in funding. 

Oxford East MP and Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds said the "critical thing is to listen to the black community within Oxford."

She said: "My view is that it staying where it is without any other symbol there that would highlight what occurred during those awful times is not helpful.

"Some people want an opposing symbol there, you have others who want it to be removed – for me the critical thing is to listen to the black community within Oxford and those who are directly impacted by this.

"I am not going to seek to speak for them, I don't think that would be helpful."

Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran said, while she did not endorse "vigilante action", the statue "must come down".

She said: "The statues of white supremacists and slave merchants should not still be standing in our cities. That's why the statue of Cecil Rhodes must come down.

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

At least 26 Oxford city councillors have also called for the statue to be "immediately" removed in an open letter.

Thames Valley Police said it was "committed to facilitating a peaceful protest" and said it was "working constructively with organisers".

The toppling of Colston's statue has led to demands for other historic monuments to be removed.

A petition was launched to take down the statue of Robert Clive, known as Clive of India, in The Square in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, which described the 18th century figure as "nothing more than an figure of oppression and white supremacy".

In Wales, Cardiff's first black Lord Mayor, Dan De’Ath, is calling on local councillors to remove the statue of Sir Thomas Picton, who was accused of executing slaves, stating it is "no longer acceptable" for it to remain in City Hall.

In Edinburgh, a petition was launched to remove the statue of slave owner Henry Dundas in St Andrew Square and for streets bearing his name to be renamed.

And a "racist" pub sign which has been likened to a gollywog is to be removed "with immediate effect" following mounting pressure from campaigners to have it taken down.

Thousands of people signed a petition demanding the removal of a caricature of a black man above the 18th century Greenman pub sign in Ashbourne, Derbyshire.

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