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Israel Adesanya joins protest in New Zealand over George Floyd’s death

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JUNE 01: UFC fighter Israel Adesanya speaks to the crowd ahead of a protest on June 01, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand. The rally was organised in solidarity with protests across the United States following the killing of an unarmed black man George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775517897 ORIG FILE ID: 1239106832

Reigning UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya joined the masses in Auckland and spoke of his experience with racism in his adopted country.

The reigning middleweight champion, who was born in Nigeria but fights under the Kiwi flag after he moved to New Zealand as a child is now part of the growing number of sports stars who have voice support for protests against police brutality.

Floyd died in police custody this week and a video of his arrest – which has gone viral on social media showing a 44-year-old white officer, Derek Chauvin, subdued Floyd by placing his knee on his neck for a prolonged period until Floyd was rendered motionlessness.

The officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck, as Floyd pleaded “I can’t breathe”, has since been arrested and is facing murder and manslaughter charges.

And on Monday, Adesanya spoke at a gathering of more than 4000 protesters in Auckland.

The ‘Stylebender’ delivered an emotional address saying he was “p***ed” off at the prejudice against black people that has existed for far too long.

“I have to speak up. I’ve been doing it for like the last two weeks — for the last two weeks on my (Instagram) stories, if you watch it, you see it. I’ve been angry,” he said.

“I’m p***ed off. How many of you walk into a store and have to put your hands behind your back just so they don’t think you’re stealing?

“How many of you walk down the street and have to kind of smile and try and make the person who you can see is already scared of you make them feel comfortable?

“I just moved (apartments) and I’m on the top floor and I have to go in the elevator. Three times already I’ve had to have racist, scared white people jump when they see me, and I smile at them.

“So now I’ve got to stay to the side and let them walk through just so they don’t get scared when they see me. Why? Because I’m black. Just because I’m black. What did I do? I didn’t have a choice. If I had a choice, I’d still be black.”

Adesanya said people from all backgrounds need to unite if the world is truly going to make a difference about ingrained racism.

“After this, we’re gonna march. But we’ve been talking for so long, we’ve been marching for so long. But it’s not about us now,” he said.

“So now I’ve got to stay to the side and let them walk through just so they don’t get scared when they see me. Why? Because I’m black. Just because I’m black. What did I do? I didn’t have a choice. If I had a choice, I’d still be black.”

Adesanya said people from all backgrounds need to unite if the world is truly going to make a difference about ingrained racism.

“After this, we’re gonna march. But we’ve been talking for so long, we’ve been marching for so long. But it’s not about us now,” he said.

“Shoutout to all the white people, all the people of different races being here because we need you.

“We need you to speak up, we need you to say something because … I’m sick and tired of seeing those faces get killed because guess what? I see myself in them, the whole time, and it’s heartbreaking, man.”

An estimated 4000 people gathered in central Auckland to attend the Black Lives Matter March for Solidarity. The group travelled from Aotea Square to the US Consulate General on Customs St. Other demonstrations occurred in Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

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