On Thursday 30th June members of Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford demonstrated outside Oriel College’s open day.
Oluwafemi Nylander and Ntozoko Sbo Qwabe, prominent members of the anti-colonial campaign in Oxford, stood shirtless outside the college which houses the infamous statue of Cecil Rhodes. The demonstrators stood with ‘I prefer land to n******’, reportedly a Rhodes quote, and ‘All Slaves College’ painted in red paint on their chests. The latter refers to All Souls College’s Codrington Library which commemorates Christopher Codrington, a fellow of the college who amassed his fortune through plantation slavery.
This demonstration comes after Nylander stood outside All Souls College on 20th June, topless and wearing a chain, with the words ‘All Slaves College’ painted on his chest in red paint, intended to symbolise the bloody nature of this history.
The two men stood outside the college from 9am-4pm yesterday, and were joined intermittently by other Rhodes Must Fall protesters, including Tadiwa Madenga and Athi-Nangamso Nkopa.
Photos make it clear that Oriel student helpers were vying for attention against the protesters, despite the Oriel College website insisting that potential Oriel students would be met with “a warm welcome” when visiting the open day.
Videos of Nylander and Qwabe discussing Rhodes and colonisation with members of the public were posted on the Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford Facebook page last night, but have since been taken down.
Speaking to Cherwell for comment, demonstrator Nylander said “We had a lot of discussions with people, some of whom claimed Rhodes killed no one and that the land he stole belonged to no one. Others of whom were rightfully disgusted.”
On their Facebook page, Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford argued that yesterday’s demonstration was a continuation of their call for the Rhodes statue to be removed.
“We will remember that just recently, overwhelming sentiment that the statue should be REMOVED swept at both the shallow ‘listening exercise’ events that Oriel purported to host in the past two weeks. We will also remember that various student bodies and platforms including OUSU, the Oxford Union, and a plethora of MCRs and JCRs have voted for the statue to be removed. But the college continues to hold on to this white supremacist monument – showing utter disregard for democratic values, and for the voices of its students, particularly those of colour.”
The statement went on to say “We find it important that potential Orielites, and students across Oxford, should know that Oriel College, like most of Oxford, is built on the blood of black people. Blood that has never been atoned for and addressed in any way. Blood that Oriel, and the rest of Oxford continues to unashamedly bath and bask in. Blood for which people of colour continue to bear the brunt of in this space, and around the world.”
Nylander also reports a police officer entering the college and quickly leaving. It is unclear whether the police presence was directly relevant to the protest.
Oriel College has declined to comment.