VERSA | Rhodes Must Fall take to the streets in colonial walking tour

In their first major protest since Oriel “sold-out” to their donors, Rhodes Must Fall supporters marched through Oxford, past buildings linked to British ex-colonialists Cecil Rhodes and Christopher Codrington, on the anniversary of RMF’s foundation at the University of Cape Town. Their walking tour of sites linked to colonial Britain is the most Oxford form of protest we can imagine short of refusing to stand for the SCR at formal hall.

Starting in Oriel Square, the site of their last big protest, activists marched past the infamous statue of Cecil Rhodes, before passing All Souls, home of the Codrington Library, the Old Indian Institute, Rhodes House and finishing in Wellington Square, home of the university’s central administration. Somehow, we don’t think All Souls will give a damn seeing that Oriel ignored RMF…

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All photos ©JHurfurt

Though local authorities had given permission for the protest, nobody seemed to have notified the bus companies or local traffic, with marshalls having to become impromptu traffic cops to make sure nobody was run over whilst shouting “Fight the Power” on High Street or Parks Road, with buses and other traffic waiting for the protestors to pass.

RMF justified the addition of All Souls and what is now the Martin School (Old Indian Institute) by citing Codrington’s slavery-based fortune which paid for the library, and the role of the OII in educating civil servants to work for the government in British-controlled India. We’re not sure what the Martin School, actually does, with their website claiming they are a “world-leading centre of pioneering research that addresses global challenges“, a string of empty buzzwords if ever we’ve seen one. Still, it can’t be as ‘problematic’ as the old use for the building, can it?

                             PHOTO/ Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford

At the meeting point in Oriel Square, as well as at various points on the route, RMF activists addressed the crowd with speeches, poetry and song to help keep them enthused despite the rain and cold. Some of the speeches did need fact checking though, with one speaker claiming Regent’s Park JCR supported the movement, despite the JCR voting in a referendum to remain neural on the subject last week.

Femi Nylander, formerly Oxford’s most eligible bachelor, addressed the crowd outside All Souls, first with an original song before speaking about his experiences of meeting people of colour in Oxford, claiming he had met fewer people from Somalia at Oxford than from either Manchester Grammar School or Westminster.

When asked by VERSA if the march would achieve anything, prominent opponent of RMF and founder of Open Oxford Jacob Williams said “Since our culture condemns as ‘racist’ anyone who takes a principled stand against revolution, the march is likely to contribute to the further deconstruction of British national identity. The real victims of colonialism, who are living in abject poverty thousands of miles from the halls of Oxford, will see no benefit.” Still, it might achieve more than the Finn Lees inspired erotica Williams published in Michaelmas. 

Rhodes Must Fall and Femi have been contacted for comment. 

It’s not quite the sight-seeing bus tour is it? Maybe that’s for the next RMF protest…