Five members of RMF today disrupted a meeting in Oriel on the contextualisation of the Rhodes statue, Cherwell can reveal.
Sources close to the scene told Cherwell that the individuals entered the meeting some 20 minutes after it had begun, accusing Oriel of hypocrisy and of purposefully hiding the meeting from them.
The entrance of the group of activists, which included prominent member Ntokozo Qwabe, was a surprise to those present in the room, as the consultation was intended for Oriel students only.
The meeting was taking place in the Robert Beddard Room in Oriel’s Rhodes Building, and was being led by the Vice-Provost of Oriel, Annette Volfing.
After the initial confusion that followed the entrance of the RMF members, Ms Volfing requested that the individuals left the room, unless they were Oriel students. With the RMF members refusing to leave, a “shouting match” reportedly broke out, with the Oriel Vice-Provost repeatedly asking that they leave.
Tensions were running high, with one RMF member saying, “This statue is not about Oriel students. This is not a listening exercise.”
The altercation comes several months after Oriel announced that the statue of Cecil Rhodes would remain in place, and that the college would seek to provide a clear historical context for the existence of the statue.
The primary focus of RMF’s anger seemed to be the perceived U-turn made by Oriel. In December, the college released a statement setting out its commitment to conducting a listening exercise on the statue of Rhodes. By January, however, the college confirmed that it would be keeping the statue, despite not completing the listening exercise.
Indeed the RMF members repeatedly attacked Oriel for its actions as they confronted the college’s Vice-Provost and others who were present at the meeting.
“This is not a listening exercise, this is big money diplomacy,” one RMF member shouted, adding, “You want to shut down the voices of thousands of people.”
One RMF member was also heard describing some of those present in the room for the consultation on the Rhodes statue as “white racists”.
As the heated dispute continued, several Oriel members of staff arrived at the Robert Beddard Room. One individual told Cherwell that the RMF members were removed from the college because it was an “Oriel-only meeting”, adding that the RMF activists should seek to arrange a separate meeting with Oriel College to discuss matters surrounding the statue.