VERSA | Rhodes Must Fall bring the noise to Oriel Square

Over 150 students filled Oriel Square on Friday afternoon to campaign for the removal of the statue of Cecil Rhodes from the college. Protestors called for the immediate removal of the statue though doubts were raised as to how long getting planning permission to take down the statue would take.

The protest passed without trouble; its focus was on making noise to draw attention to the demonstrators & their message. Some people, writing on the Facebook event for the protest, did, however, show little regard for the potential disruption for students and staff at Oriel. Students at the college have told VERSA of moved tutorials and rude awakenings because of the noise from the protest. Not the best cure for that post-Bridge hangover.

Protestors made a racket with pots, pans, and a number of (often malfunctioning) megaphones. In between rounds of chanting, the crowd was addressed by a number of speakers including ex-CRAE co-chair, Kiran Benipal, and former Rhodes Scholar Ntokozo Qwabe, who presented the group’s petition to college authorities.

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Photos ©JHufurt & VERSA

Oriel’s Vice-Provost, Prof. Annette Volfing, played her part, coming out an hour into the protest to listen to the crowd’s demands and receive the petition, organised by RMF and signed by 1900 people. Qwabe first sat down with the Vice-Provost, as equal humans, not as authority and student, before refusing to look at her when presenting the petition, arguing that the college does not look on him as equal whilst the statue stands.

Speaking to VERSA, Kiran Benipal expressed delight with the turnout at the protest, and was not surprised that Prof Volfing came out to receive the petition, saying “they have to answer to the people”. She went on to state that, “the future of the movement will be decided by those in it; that is the nature of Rhodes Must Fall.”

Oriel College issued a statement following the protest, saying “Oriel is happy to engage with the Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford movement on the important issues they have raised in their campaign […but] the College draws a clear line between acknowledging the historical fact of Rhodes’ donation and in any way condoning his political views.”

Despite pissing it down with rain, the turnout was pretty impressive. We’re not sure, though, if the Oriel students woken by the chanting were equally impressed…