As Alpha Lee (St. Catz) stood to speak in opposition of the motion “This House believes Britain owes reparations to her former colonies,” banners were unfurled by pairs of students on the benches behind the debaters. Lee, however, continued unfazed, and Oblivia Merrett olivious.
Students revealed messages reading “BRUTALITY SHOULD NOT BE DEBATED” and “WHO WILL SPEAK FOR ME?” Union security approached one pair, but failed to persuade them to desist. Secretary’s Committee member Ryan Tang eventually pointed out the elephant-in-the-room in a point of order.
Tang’s challenge to the student was met by claims that they were not breaking Union rules by engaging in “non-auditory and non-violent protest.” With points of order flying, Merrett diffused the situation by insisting they obey the custom of sitting whilst speakers were standing, but allowing them to keep the banners up.
A man in a very wavey shirt, feat. background protestors.
The hashtag #RhodesMustFall identified the protestors as part of a coordinated movement. Before the debate Union security had removed dozens of leaflets bearing the slogan, which had been slipped inside debate sheets. He failed however to halt the distribution as students left the chamber.
Some leaflets survived the cull
Tensions remained throughout the debate, with repeated points of information raised against opposition speakers. During the floor debate, one of the protestors took to the microphone for a impassioned 5 minute speech, punctuated with frequent outbursts at those who challenged her.
The final opposition speaker attempted to engage the protestors, addressing the sign reading ‘WHO WILL SPEAK FOR ME’ by claiming that he spoke for the protestors – one of whom retorted with “No, I speak for me!” (Leaving VERSA to ponder why she asked the question in the first place.)
Debate continued in the union bar, where a middle-aged man publically called Annie Teriba a “black barbarian.” The resultant altercation involved Teriba leading the protestors from the building following hints of retaliation. One protestor grabbed a passing whisky and attempted to drench the man in question. Unfortunately for her and for unsuspecting Brasenose fresher Edward Howell, he dodged her throw, leaving Howell smelling like a Scottish distillery.
At VERSA we like a bit of fire in our debates, and the smokiness of the drenched fresher after his chance encounter with the protestors meant we weren’t disappointed. Sick burns all round.
Tags: black — colonialism — debate — Oxford — rhodes — Union — whiskey