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De Beers Backs Calls to Take Down Founder’s Statue in UK
Hundreds of protestors are demanding Oxford’s Oriel College remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes.
In a statement shared with National Jeweler Friday, the company said: “Symbols matter, and we will not achieve equality, social justice and healing unless those bearing symbols of inequality, injustice and pain take them down.
“Cecil Rhodes was one of our founders in 1888. We reject what he stood for, and while we can’t rewrite that history, we can bear the responsibility of history to build a better legacy.”
The company said Rhodes “would not recognize the De Beers of today, and we’re very proud of that.”
“The men and women of De Beers, the majority of whom are citizen-owners of the company across southern Africa, have worked for decades to build a positive legacy that has tangible and lasting benefits for the communities in which we live and work.”
The move to remove Rhodes comes as protests ignite around the world in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and following the murders of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.
In the U.K., the movement has “reignited a debate about monuments glorifying Britain’s imperialist past,” Reuters reported.
Rhodes attended Oriel College, where his statue is currently located, in the 1870s. After his death in 1902, he left Oxford money and endowed the sought-after scholarships that still bear his name.
This isn’t the first time protestors have called for Oriel to remove the Rhodes statue.
The current movement is part of a campaign called “Rhodes Must Fall,” started in 2015 in South Africa—resulting in the removal of a statue at the University of Cape Town—and then adopted in Oxford by those who say he represents white supremacy and that his views don’t align with the university’s inclusive culture.
Oriel College refused to take down the statue then.
In a June 9 statement addressing the recent protests, the school said it believes in the message of Black Lives Matter and supports the right to peaceful protest, but told the BBC it has not changed its stance on the statue.
Some public figures have spoken out against the removal of such monuments, arguing they reflect history and should be used to start discussions.
But demonstrators argue that the statue of Rhodes shouldn’t have a place of pride on the façade of Oriel College, overlooking the town’s main drag.
According to a CNN report, on Tuesday protestors took a knee, put their fists in the air and observed a moment of silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, representing the amount of time Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck, ultimately killing the 46-year-old father.
As of Thursday afternoon, more than 164,000 people had signed a petition on Change.org to have the statue taken down.
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