Since the tragic death of George Floyd in the United States, Black Lives Matter protests have erupted around the globe and calls have been made to remove any monument or statue celebrating the UK’s colonial past. Some have already been removed by protesters or authorities.
In the UK, a statue of Edward Colston, who was instrumental in the transportation of more than 80,000 African men, women and children to the Caribbean in the 17th century, was pushed into Bristol harbour on June 5.
Robert Milligan, another prominent slave trade, had his statue removed from the West India Quay, in London.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “The statue of slave trader Robert Milligan has now been removed from West India Quay.
“It’s a sad truth that much of our wealth was derived from the slave trade – but this does not have to be celebrated in our public spaces.”
Calls to remove statue of Cecil Rhodes
Days later, a sign was placed on University Church, opposite Oxford’s Oriel College, saying: “Rhodes, You’re Next”, a clear reference to a statue of the 19th century colonialist Cecil Rhodes.
Former Oriel student Mr Rhodes, who was central to Britain’s establishment of African colonies, gave his name to Rhodesia, the country which is now known as Zimbabwe.
Mr Rhodes is said to have held racist beliefs and has been accused of having implemented racial segregation measures which paved the way for the system of apartheid which survived in South Africa until the 1980s.
Oriel College has been under pressure for several years from the #RhodesMustFall campaign, which argues the statue glorifies racism.
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Protests erupted over Cecil Rhodes statue
In the wake of the BLM protests, the college’s governing body has pledged to launch an independent commission of inquiry into the issues surrounding the statue, to which it would recommend that it be taken down.
However a poll, which ran from 9am to 9pm on June 25 on Express.co.uk, asked whether the statue should be taken down.
A staggering 9,929 people voted in the poll and 97 percent (9,531) said the statue should not be removed.
Just three percent (336) said yes and 62 voters said they don’t know.
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Oriel said the commission would examine the Rhodes legacy and how the college’s present commitment to diversity could “sit more easily with its past”.
In a statement issued subsequently, campaigners said: “While the Governing Body of Oriel College has ‘expressed their wish’ to take down the statue, we continue to demand their commitment.
“Until such time as the Rhodes statue ceases to adorn the facade of Oriel College on Oxford’s High Street, we will continue to galvanise the goodwill and energy seen across the University, particularly among an astonishingly wide variety of academics.”
Since the protests erupted in the UK, the statue of Sir Winston Churchill has been vandalised multiple times.
Edward Colston’s statue was thrown into harbour
The monument at Whitehall had the words: “Winston was a racist” spray painted on it.
This caused national outrage and Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel condemned the vandalism.
Mr Johnson said: “We cannot now try to edit or censor our past.
“We cannot pretend to have a different history. The statues in our cities and towns were put up by previous generations.
“They had different perspectives, different understandings of right and wrong.
“But those statues teach us about our past, with all its faults.
“To tear them down would be to lie about our history, and impoverish the education of generations to come.”