Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton is aghast at criticism being aimed towards anti-racism protesters in Bristol who pulled down a statue of 17th century slave trader Edward Colston.
On Sunday, as part of the mass protests calling for an end to racial violence and discrimination that have swept the globe in the aftermath of George Floyd's death, a group of demonstrators pulled a statue of Colston from its plinth in Bristol and later dumped it in the city's harbour.
Hamilton posted on Instagram to support the act and said "TEAR THEM ALL DOWN. Everywhere. I support this", having also written to pay tribute to Floyd – who died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25 after an officer knelt on his neck for nine minutes – over the past week.
Such enthusiasm has not been shared in the United Kingdom's political establishment, with a spokesperson for prime minister Boris Johnson branding the forceful removal of the statue a "criminal act".
Labour leader Keir Starmer said it should have been taken down a long time ago and pointed towards the deaths of an estimated 20,000 people on Colston's ships, although he also said the actions of the protesters were "completely wrong" in an interview with LBC.
Posting on his Instagram story on Monday, Hamilton claimed nothing other than direct action would have removed the controversial monument, while he also rejected the idea that Colston's statue should be retrieved an put in a museum – as suggested by Starmer.
He said: "Watching the news today regarding the statues torn down from yesterday! If those people hadn't taken down that statue honouring a racist slave trader, it would never have been removed.
"There's talk of it going into a museum. That man's statue should stay in the river just like the 20 thousand African souls who died on the journey here and [who were] thrown into the sea, with no burial or memorial.
"He stole them from their families, country and he must not be celebrated! It should be replaced with a memorial for all those he sold, all those that lost their lives!!"
The mass attendance of Black Lives Matter protests across the UK last weekend made it difficult for those present to observe social distancing measures, in line with guidelines to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.
Nevertheless, Hamilton insists his homeland still having the highest rate of new COVID-19 cases in Europe is squarely the responsibility of Johnson's government.
"I'm appalled at the UK government on how they have handled COVID," he said.
"You should have closed the borders months ago. How you can let people fly in from countries without being tested is baffling.
"You could have saved thousands of lives. We need better leaders!"
As of Monday, new arrivals in the UK must spend two weeks in quarantine, although the government has agreed exemptions for Formula One drivers and teams to allow behind-closed-doors races to take place at Silverstone on August 2 and 9.