Organizers of the Black Lives Matter protest movement in Saint Lucia did not get approval from the relevant authorities to hold a rally yesterday in Constitution Park, yet the rally was held, sparking speculation as to whether this was in defiance of the authorities, or whether there was some unwritten authorization by the authorities permitting the rally but within certain limits.
What this reporter was able to unearth prior to press time yesterday and during the time that the rally was being held was that persons participating in the rally were in violation of an order from the police force, that order being that the rally should not be held because permission had not been granted by the relevant authorities.
Surprisingly, police officers, even high-ranking members, were on duty, silently observing dozens upon dozens of persons participating in the rally protesting racial discrimination, police brutality, unsolved shooting deaths of persons by the hands of the police and other matters.
While several individuals at the rally read the police presence as a buffer against violence should it rear its head there and as a sign of solidarity with protesters, THE VOICE understood this was not all correct as the officers were also there to arrest protesters, especially the rally’s leaders should they be given the command to do so by the relevant authorities.
Such a command however was not given, and the peaceful rally ended just after 10:30 a.m. Friday morning.
But that may not be the end of things for organizers of the rally as they could be charged later for staging a demonstration without having in their possession explicit permission to do so by the relevant authorities.
While organizers hoped that the authorities would not follow through with actions of arrest for the violation with the hosting of the short and peaceful event, a statement by Prime Minister Allen Chastanet on his official Facebook page gave some hope that perhaps, just this once, the authorities might turn a blind eye to Friday’s happenings in Constitution Park.
According to the prime minister, he was aware of the non-approval of the application for the rally by the relevant authorities, however he had been in consultation with the Commissioner of Police and the Ministry of Health both making their respective positions on the application known to him.
“While I fully appreciate the concerns about security, health and safety, especially while we remain under a State of Emergency situation, it is my view that Saint Lucia must show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. The disease that is racism, with all its ominous implications, must be resisted at every opportunity, and by all of us,” Chastanet wrote on his Facebook page.
He added, “I have requested that all parties concerned pursue every possibility that would permit the Black Lives Matter activity to go on without contravening the established protocols. However, the final decision is the responsibility of the relevant authorities. From the moment the coronavirus was declared a life-threatening pandemic, we have at all times relied on and followed the guidance of the health and security authorities,” the prime minister said.
Acting Police Commissioner Milton Desir gave his reasons for rejecting the application for the rally noting that on Wednesday, June 10, 2020, an application was received from organizers of Black Lives Matter Saint Lucia, with the subject “Black Lives Matter Saint Lucia Rally” seeking permission to hold a rally at Constitution Park, Castries, on Friday, June 12, 2020, commencing at 9:00 a.m. for a duration of three hours.
“The application indicated that approximately 300 persons were expected to be in attendance. We have realized that permission may be granted for other activities such as religious services, etc. on a case by case basis under the strict protocols of the Chief Medical Officer.
“In consultation with the Chief Medical Officer, the decision to not approve the application at this time, was taken based on the current law in relation to the Emergency Powers (Disasters) (COVID-19) (N0. 8) Order 2020 on restrictions for mass crowd events and also factoring the health risk. The current law does not allow the Commissioner of Police to approve such an event, at this time, scheduled for Friday, June 12, 2020. The Acting Commissioner continues to have further consultation with the Chief Medical Officer on the stages in which Saint Lucia will be permitted to hold mass crowd events in a safe manner, during COVID-19 pandemic, with the required amendments to the law to permit these events,” Desir said.
Speaking at yesterday’s protest rally was Alison Jean, mother of Botham Jean who was shot and killed in his apartment in Dallas by a white police officer. She called on Saint Lucians to stop being afraid of people; the police, politicians and others, and for them to stand up and show that their lives matter.
Alix Williams, aunt of Kimberly Williams De Leon who was shot and killed at her home in 2018 was also there with placard aloof in solidarity.
The Saint Lucia Labour Party’s political leader Philip J Pierre and First Deputy leader Ernest Hilaire were also present at the rally with Pierre taking the microphone to chant “Black Lives Matter” in unison with the crowd.
“It is very important to make a statement and that statement means that our country will not tolerate any racism or discrimination. The oppressed people of the world have to be free so that they can enjoy a quality of life that they need and deserve,” Pierre said.
“This statement this morning is a movement for change. It’s a movement that will ensure that change comes to our country, a movement that would ensure that people matter, policies about people not buildings, bridges and roads though they are important,” Pierre said, calling on the crowd to keep the fight going against a system that makes less than five percent of the people of the world millionaires and multi-millionaires while keeping the rest of the people poor.