Demonstrators call for statue of colonialist Cecil Rhodes to be removed from Oxford University

Demonstrators have gathered at Oxford University to call for the removal of the Cecil Rhodes statue as part of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Rhodes was a 19th century businessman and politician who protesters argue represents colonialism and racism. On Sunday a monument of slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down in Bristol.

There's been a light police presence all afternoon. Thames Valley Police say they support the right to peaceful protest and are here to facilitate the demonstration.

As well as being a diamond magnate, Cecil Rhodes also studied at Oriel College. When he died, left a huge endowment - enough to create a hugely prestigious scholarship programme which continues today.

There's been a light police presence all afternoon Credit: ITV Meridian
Hundreds demonstrated outside Oriel College Credit: ITV Meridian
Rhodes was a 19th century businessman and politician who protesters argue represents colonialism and racism Credit: PA

Now there have been calls before for the college to get rid of the statue of Rhodes which sits high above the gate.

  • Morategi Kale- protester:

Cecil Rhodes also studied at Oriel College Credit: ITV Meridian

Today Oriel College says it is deeply committed to equality and continues to debate and discuss the issues raised by portrayals of Rhodes on its grounds.

Now this has also divided politicians. The council has written to the college inviting them to remove the statue and potentially put it in a museum.

Oxford East MPs, Anneliese Dodds agrees.

  • Anneliese Dodds MP- Oxford East, Lab:

In a statement from Oriel College Governing Body, a spokesperson said "Oriel College abhors racism and discrimination in all its forms. The Governing Body are deeply committed to equality within our community at Oriel, the University of Oxford and the wider world."

Councillor Susan Brown, Leader of Oxford City Council said in a statement “I’m clear in my support for the Black Lives Matter movement and I have a great deal of sympathy with the Rhodes Must Fall campaign. The question of statues and their historical context is not a simple matter, but sometimes acts of symbolism are important. I know my views are shared by a majority of my fellow councillors."

Who was Cecil Rhodes?

Cecil Rhodes Speaking At The South Africa Committee In 1897 Credit: PA
  • Businessman, politician and Imperialist.

  • He played a huge role in southern Africa in the late 19th Century, driving the annexation of vast swathes of land.

  • Born the son of a vicar in Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, in 1853, he first went to Africa as a teenager at the age of 17 and grew cotton with his brother in Natal.

  • He then moved into diamond mining, founding De Beers.

  • Rhodes's bequest continues to finance scholarships bearing his name, allowing overseas students to come to Oxford University.

  • Rhodes backed the disastrous Jameson Raid of 1895, in which a small British force tried to overthrow the gold-rich Transvaal Republic, helping prompt the Second Boer War. Tens of thousands died.