The graffiti has since been removedExtinction Rebellion Cambridge

Content note: This article contains mentions of racism

Last night (20/06), activists from Extinction Rebellion (XR) Youth Cambridge stencilled “Churchill was a racist” onto a sign and a wall in Churchill College.

The graffiti followed controversy surrounding the disbanding of the Churchill, Race and Empire Working Group, which was set up last year following the murder of George Floyd.

A member of XR Youth Cambridge said in a press release: “Across this city, there are so many institutions whose money comes from exploitation and colonialism. We are not going to let Cambridge colleges censor the truth about their harmful historical and modern connections. As a city and a country, we desperately need to face up to the legacy of the British Empire, which did so much damage around the world and is still causing harm today.”

The spray paint messages, which were intended to mirror those found on the plinth of Churchill’s statue in Parliament Square during last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, have since been removed.

XR Cambridge also targeted Gonville and Caius College during the protests last summer, with graffiti stating “Eugenics is genocide. Fisher must fall” being sprayed upon the College’s main gate, as part of calls for the College to remove a memorial window to Ronald Fisher and recognise his links to white supremacy.

In a statement released by Churchill College, Professor Dame Athene Donald, the Master of the College, wrote that the group had “changed direction” and had disbanded itself - a claim that Professor Priyamvada Gopal, who is a fellow of the College and key figure in the group, described as “untrue” in a series of tweets published last Thursday (17/06).


Mountain View

Churchill College disbands working group on Churchill, Race and Empire

Donald’s statement noted that the talks organised by the group had gradually strayed from their original aims.

Gopal, however, wrote that the College’s disbanding of the group was the result of pressure exerted onto the College by the Churchill family, the think-tank Policy Exchange, and the press following the group’s second event, which was entitled “The Racial Consequences of Mr Churchill”.

The XR Youth Cambridge activist continued: “It is increasingly evident that there is a deep connection between global, racial, social and climate justice. The idea that those with money, power and military strength have the right to exploit the earth and its people is responsible both for colonialism and the climate and ecological emergency.

We have learned so much from anti-racist activists - we won’t let Britain’s racist history be swept under the rug.”