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Though he lives thousands miles away, UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya has been deeply affected by the death of George Floyd.
Adesanya spoke at a Black Lives Matter rally outside the U.S. Embassy in Auckland, New Zealand, on Monday, as a crowd demanded justice for Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest in Minneapolis. Officer Derek Chauvin was eventually charged with third-degree murder in Floyd’s death.
“For the last two weeks I’ve been angry. I’m pissed off,” Adesanya told the crowd. “Wait, hold up. 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 to make you see the person who already is scared of you, you make them feel comfortable?”
Adesanya, who was born in Nigeria but calls New Zealand home, described his experience riding an elevator in his current place of living and how his appearance frightens white residents.
“I 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,” he said. “So now I gotta 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.”
Different groups protested in four separate gatherings throughout New Zealand, including thousands who marched from Aotea Square in Auckland to the U.S. Embassy, where protestors took a knee for a moment of silence in memory of Floyd.
“We’ve been talking for so long, we’ve been marching for so long, but it’s not about us now,” Adesanya 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 like he said, I’m sick and tired of seeing those face get killed because, guess what, I see myself in them. The whole time. And it’s heartbreaking, man. I’m pissed off.”
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