WORLD heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua responded to critics of his speech at a Black Lives Matter protest by saying, “If you think I am a racist, go f yourself.”
The 30-year-old boxer delivered a passionate speech at a protest in his hometown of Watford on Saturday.Click here for the latest news on Black Lives Matter
Tens of thousands of people participated in protests across the UK in London, Manchester, Watford, Bristol, Edinburgh and Cardiff.
A series of celebrities have also been spotted at rallies with Joshua, Stormzy, Rio Ferdinand and Madonna all supporting the protests over the weekend.
Using the words of his friend Reece Campbell, Joshua told his crowd in Watford that the protesters were the vaccine against the virus of racism.
The fighter said, “The virus has been declared a pandemic, it is out of control. And I’m not talking about Covid-19. The virus I’m talking about is called racism. We have to express ourselves. We must be united.
In an expletive-laden response to those who questioned his intentions on social media, Joshua vowed to deliver on his promise to help turn conversation into action.
Joshua wrote: “If you think I’m a racist, go f‘ yourself! If you watch the full video, the speech was passed around to someone to read and I took the lead.
“I personally spoke about the heart of the Watford community, the ideas of personally investing 7 figures to create unity and opportunity and to add change to the African / Caribbean community.
“I said what I said and I will take action to make a difference. ”
He’s coming as we revealed Joshua plans to create a new community center near where he lives with his son JJ, four.
He told The Sun, “If you want to be change, change must come from within.
“I appreciate people who protest, but once awareness is raised, we have to create economic change.
“We have to look at education – readers become leaders. ”
Joshua wants to buy a building to create a learning hub that will allow children from different backgrounds to get to know each other.
He added, “I focus on the local community.
“We want to create a center to help people learn, to come together and bring unity.
“I want to give the children a place to go to learn, so if they get into a confrontation with someone who is not from the same country or the same culture as them, they are not ignorant and they do not not judge for what they look like. ”
Joshua has already had discussions with the local council with community groups.
A source said, “AJ has done a lot in the local community, but the recent Black Lives Matter protests have put it all at the forefront. ”
Conservative MP for Watford, Dean Russell, also “heartlessly supported” the plan.
He added: “I hope it can be a beacon for other centers across the UK. ”
Meanwhile, English footballer Raheem Sterling has insisted that racism is “the only disease at the moment” and has said that he will continue to speak out on the matter in the hope that it will contribute to a lasting change.
Speaking to Emily Maitlis on BBC Newsnight in an interview to be broadcast this evening, Sterling said, “I know it may sound a bit cheesy, but the only disease right now is the racism we are fighting.
“It’s the most important thing right now because it’s been going on for years and years. Like the pandemic, we want to find a solution to stop it.
“At the same time, this is what all of these protesters are doing. They try to find a solution and a way to stop the injustice they see, and they fight for their cause.
“As long as they do it peacefully and safely, and they don’t hurt anyone and they don’t break into stores, they continue to protest in this peaceful way. ”
Sterling has already taken an initiative in calling racism into the national and international game.
Last year, he advised other professionals not to leave the field in cases of racial abuse, and also called for the establishment of a player-led anti-racist task force.
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The weekend’s largely peaceful protests were marred by violent scenes with photographed police bleeding from the streets after a minority of yobs launched fireworks, bottles and even bicycles.
But small acts of vandalism included the statues of Winston Churchill and Mahatma Gandhi disfigured in Parliament Square.
And four thousand people descended on a peaceful demonstration in Bristol where a statue of the slave trader Edward Colston was overthrown by protesters.
Interior Minister Priti Patel called the escalation of violence “lawless and reckless” and called the scenes “outrageous vandalism” by a “rogue minority”.
Boris Johnson tweeted, “People have the right to protest peacefully – while observing social distancing, but they are not allowed to attack the police.
“These protests have been subverted by violence – and they are a betrayal of the cause they claim to serve. Those responsible will be held accountable.