POLL: Should the Cecil Rhodes statue at Oxford's Oriel College be taken down? VOTE HERE

The online poll comes at a time of heightened tensions in the wake of the killing of Mr Floyd in the city of Minneapolis after footage showing a policeman kneeling on his neck for more than eight minutes shocked the world. Police officer Derek Chauvin has since been charged with murder – and Mr Floyd’s death triggered a wave of BLM demonstrations, with protesters defying lockdown rules and medical advice to take to the streets.

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.

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 Rhodes, who was central to Britain’s establishment of African colonies, gave his name to Rhodesia, the country which is now known as Zimbabwe.

He held racist beliefs and 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.

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.

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However, others are concerned at what they believe to be a bid to airbrush out unpalatable parts of UK history.

Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg questioned why Rhodes was being singled out, given famous figures including Sir Winston Churchill, whose statue in Parliament Square was defaced by protesters, and others also held views which would not be deemed acceptable today.

Speaking specifically about the statue of Edward Colston, Robert Halfon, Tory MP for Harlow in Essex, told Good Morning Britain: “I am utterly opposed to people tearing down statues.

“It’s a bit Stalinist in its nature.

“I think we need to have a national conversation about these individuals, we need to make a judgement on whether they did more good than bad.

“I’d like, at the bottom of the statue, a little explanation about what these people did but it should say this person was a slaver.

“He may have done some good as well and we have to make judgement calls.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson commented: “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.”

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