Israel Adesanya has led calls for action against racism after speaking out at a George Floyd protest in his New Zealand homeland.
Powerful footage has emerged of the Nigerian-born Kiwi UFC champion speaking at a rally in Auckland, where thousands marched against racism and Floyd’s tragic death.
'DESTROYING OUR CITIES': UFC icon in scary confrontation with rioters
‘LOSS FOR WORDS’: Football star killed in George Floyd riots
The rallies were peaceful in contrast to the days of sometimes violent protests in the United States after Floyd, an African-American man, died while handcuffed and as a white police officer, who has since been charged with third-degree murder, knelt on his neck.
Adesanya was among a crowd of around 2,000 people marching to the US Consulate chanting, "no justice, no peace" and "black lives matter".
The UFC middleweight champion took a microphone to speak to supporters at one stage, where he delivered a moving address about his own experiences of racial discrimination.
“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 and I’m on the top floor and I have to go in the elevator. Three times already I’ve had 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.”
The fighter said while it was encouraging to see people of different races and religions united in the fight against racism, he's devastated that black lives continue to be taken.
“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.”
Similar rallies take place across New Zealand
Hundreds also gathered for similar rallies in Christchurch and Wellington, where they were presented with hundreds of names said to be Americans who have died due to racial injustice.
Nigerian-New Zealand musician, Mazbou Q, who organised the protest, said the gatherings were not just about the death of Floyd.
"The... persecution of the black community is an ongoing phenomenon. The same white supremacy which has led to disproportionate killings of black people in the US exists here in New Zealand," he told the crowd in Auckland.
"We pride ourselves on being a nation of empathy, kindness and love. But the silence from the government and the media does not reflect that at all. In fact, it makes us complicit."
In Christchurch, where 51 people were killed by a self-proclaimed white supremacist last year, one speaker, Josephine Varghese, told the crowd: "We demand racial and economic justice. Black lives matter, indigenous lives matter, Muslim lives matter."
Police maintained a low-key presence as the protestors defied strict coronavirus regulations demanding gatherings be restricted to a maximum 100 people, who must maintain social distancing.
New Zealand is on the verge of eliminating the coronavirus with no new cases for 10 days.
Of the country’s reported 1,154 confirmed cases, only one remains active.