Oxford University: Protective mesh removed from Cecil Rhodes statue

By Charlotte AndrewsBBC News • Noor QurashiLocal Democracy Reporting Service

Reuters A statue of a man attached to a building, with columns each side of him. To his left and right are windows. There is black netting covering him. Beneath his feet is a plaque that says "Rhodes".Reuters

The Cecil Rhodes statue stands on the building named after him at Oriel College

Protective mesh in front of a controversial statue on an Oxford University building has been removed.

The Cecil Rhodes figure at Oriel College was covered by black netting in 2020, after protesters called for it to be taken down.

In 2021, an explanatory plaque “contextualising” the memorial of the British imperialist was installed at the site.

The university and college campus have been contacted for comment.

Getty Images A black and white photo of Cecil Rhodes, who is sitting down with his arms clasped in front of him. He is wearing a coat with a shirt and tie. He has a moustache.Getty Images

Campaigners had called for the statue of the 19th century merchant to be removed

The figure of Rhodes, who was linked to the slave trade, gained renewed attention in June 2020 after a statue of Edward Colston was thrown in a dock in Bristol by Black Lives Matter protestors.

It sparked a large protest outside the Oxford college building, with demonstrators demanding the statue be removed.

Rhodes was a student at Oriel and left the college £100,000 when he died in 1902.

But campaigners say he represented white supremacy.

The Cecil Rhodes statue was set to be removed by summer 2021 and placed in a museum after governors of Oriel College voted to take it down.

But the move was scuppered by costs and “complex” planning processes.

Instead, a plaque explaining Rhodes’ history was put up near the building.

A large crowd of people, many wearing face masks and holding placards

Thousands of people joined a protest against the statue in 2020

Oxford City councillor Susanna Pressel said she thought the mesh had been put up to protect the statue from pigeon droppings.

She added: “Perhaps the college has decided Cecil Rhodes deserves to have pigeon droppings all over him!”

“I agree with those who say that statues of people like him belong in a museum, not on a pedestal.”

Thousands of people signed a petition against removal of the statue when it was due to be taken down in 2021, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).

Greg Everest, who started the petition, said at the time that Rhodes was a historial figure with “world wide significance”.

“We must keep our history, British history, in order to learn from it regardless of political feelings and persuasions,” he said.

A white plaque explaining the history of Cecil Rhodes above some black fencing.

A plaque “contextualising” the memorial can now be found on fencing near to the building

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