A GROUP of Oxford city councillors have called for a statue of Cecil Rhodes to be removed from a prominent place on the city's High Street.

The statue of the 19th century imperialist on the side of a building owned by Oriel College has been the subject of a campaign for its removal since 2016, as part of a wider movement called Rhodes Must Fall.

In the wake of the statue of 17th century slaver and merchant Edward Colston's toppling in Bristol on the weekend, calls for Rhodes' removal from the college building have been revived.

A group of 26 Labour councillors on Oxford City Council have joined the calls, with 'a statement of support' calling on Oriel College to remove the statue.

It also asks the University of Oxford to 'work with Oxford City Council, residents and trade unions to make Oxford a truly anti-racist city'.

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The councillors' letter described Rhodes as 'a white supremacist who believed in brutal colonial rule and subjugation across Africa and the world.'

And their letter added: "A city’s public art and monuments should reflect its values. The presence of this statue on our High Street is incompatible with our city’s proud internationalist heritage and commitment to anti-racism. 

"We condemn Oriel College’s 2016 decision to privilege its donors over the wider Oxford community.

"We call on Oriel College to immediately remove the Cecil Rhodes statue and associated plaque."

Among the 26 councillors were five members of the cabinet, senior councillors who act as leaders, including the two deputy leaders Ed Turner and Tom Hayes.

Meanwhile, on Twitter, council leader Susan Brown, who has not signed the letter, said she had 'great sympathy' for the Rhodes Must Fall campaign and said Oriel College should apply for planning permission to remove the statue.

Martyn Rush, councillor for Barton, who organised the joint letter, said: "It is important for the Rhodes Must Fall campaign to know that we stand with them. We believe that a statue to a white supremacist should not be on our High Street. This statement is part of showing that there is a broad range of support across the city for the statue to be removed and the University and Colleges to join with the City to challenge systemic racism and the legacy of colonialism. 

"Moreover, we want to demonstrate that this is not merely an internal matter between Oriel College and its alumni. Rather, it is a public monument standing over the High Street - it should be for the City as a whole to decide what figures it celebrates in its statues. 

"In my view, the struggle of the City, the University and its Colleges against racism is incomplete as long as this statue stands on our High Street."

The letter has also been sent to to the Rhodes Must Fall movement.

A protest to demand the statue is removed will take place on the street below it tonight from 5pm.