Campaigners kneel in front of Billy Boston statue in Wigan

Anti-racism campaigners gathered in Wigan town centre to kneel in front of the Billy Boston statue.
Campaigners kneeling in front of the Billy Boston statueCampaigners kneeling in front of the Billy Boston statue
Campaigners kneeling in front of the Billy Boston statue

Stand Up To Racism organised the socially distanced event in The Wiend for Black Lives Matter at 6pm on June 24 (Wednesday).

Organisers said the aim of the event was to celebrate the lives of black people like Billy Boston, who represents "some of the best the town has to offer."

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Rugby legend and Wigan Warriors great Billy had his statue unveiled in 2016.

People took the knee for eight minutes, while before they did this a message against racism sent to them by Rugby League player Lee Gaskell was read out.

A Stand Up To Racism spokesman said: "Here in Wigan we can celebrate the lives of black people like Billy Boston who represents some of the best the best the town has to offer while the cotton and coal barons of the past represent some of the worst there was, and their exploitation of workers and slaves conveniently ignored.

"Black Lives Matter, not because other lives don’t, but because for far too long we have ignored the disproportionate number of black deaths in police custody, of rising poverty levels, of harassment and intimidation, all highlighted by the Grenvell Towers tragedy and the Windrush scandal.

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"And we have ignored the huge part played by BAME people in the history of our country – the hundreds of thousands who fought and died on Britain’s side in two World Wars, Commonwealth migrants who sustained the economy in the post-War period, the thousands of BAME hospital and care home workers who have battled to save all lives during this pandemic.

"Not to mention the many thousands of BAME people who over the generations have fought alongside white workers in our trade unions to improve the quality of every worker’s life."

They added: "We support Black Lives Matter because we think all lives matter in a world rich in resources and possibilities, but poor in their distribution.”

Cardiff born Billy, 85, is known by Wiganers as one of their own having played nearly 500 games for the Cherry and Whites. A winger or centre, he scored 571 career tries, the most by any British player, and played 31 times for Great Britain.

His sporting feats, plus his dedication to raising money for charity, meant he was awarded an MBE in 1996.