“Scandalous” and “irresponsible” were the descriptions some activists used to label Police Commissioner Gary Griffith’s Facebook post on Saturday, in which he appeared to reference the non-protest by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in T&T in response to the recent local killing of a two-year-old as ‘selective behaviour.’
The activists criticised Griffith for strategically using the murder of two-year-old Aniah McCloud, an African girl, to attack BLM protestors.
McCloud was shot dead by gunmen along with her father Stephon in Tunapuna last Friday
In Griffith’s statement, he argued there was an unequal outcry over the murder of McCloud by the same organisations and groups who in recent weeks engaged in protesting in support of the BLM movement, raising issues of racism, prejudice, police brutality and other social injustices imposed locally on the African community. The US police killing of unarmed African-American George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in May sparked global protests.
“I await the sound and fury by activists, politicians and newspaper editorials, calling on communities to work with the police to bring these perpetrators to immediate justice, along with demands for justice and to ‘call their names’, or is this outburst, hurt and pain, conveniently felt only when the police are involved,” Griffith wrote.
He added, “Every life lost is one life too many, and is and should be treated as heinous, however, when murderous gangsters, intentionally point their illegal weapons at their target and proceed to pull that trigger regardless of who their target may be, and takes the life of an innocent, a baby no less, demands equal outcry. If this doesn’t move us to work together, I am not certain what can.”
But Shabaka Kambon, activist, author and son of Emancipation Support Committee (ESC) chairman Khafra Kambon, yesterday said citizens in T&T have marched hundreds of times against the killing fields in T&T and have expressed more than passing outrage over the kidnapping, rape, murder, torture and general criminality that features prominently in the country’s landscape.
“It has been 20 years of tears, marches, protests, prayers, letters to editors, and substantive proposals and pilot projects ignored or rejected whilst billions are being spent on policing and national security with little to no impact or the clear prospect of it. Yes, activists feel outraged over the killing of children in this country, just as we have 1,000 times before,” Kambon contended.
To Griffith’s “selected outcry,” comment, Kambon said whether the CoP’s supposed attack on BLM was intentional or not, the record must be set straight—the BLM was not in opposition to legitimate police work or police in general, nor was it a movement in love with a foreign flavour-of-the-month versus local issues. Rather, he said it was an unprecedented global movement interrogating white supremacy and the hierarchies, policies and practices it has nurtured everywhere.
He said local activists supported all legitimate attempts at curbing criminality in T&T and urged Griffith to stop trying to create artificial wedges between the activists, community and the movement to rid T&T of crime.
“We stand committed to ridding T&T of all of these, at the same time, we stand united with our brothers and sisters globally in the battle against white supremacy,” Kambon said.
In a Facebook video response to Griffith’s statement, Muhammad Muwakil said there was something people and Griffith misunderstood. He said the reoccurrences of murder in communities were not as a result of people just wanting to murder people but rather years of government neglect and lack of real financial opportunities to become autonomous and gain economic security had formed these communities.
“Years and years of drugs and guns being pumped into these communities and having them used as scapegoats for the…look let we doh even go there,” Muwakil wrote.
He said politicians have been using these communities over the years for votes, even labelling them as “strongholds.”
Muwakil said, “They know this community is going to vote in this way regardless of what happens to them and so when we see young black men and women come out in the street and killing each other, it is not because they want to. And therefore the idea is not only to police the problem but to fix the problem from the root.”
He said when the country does not see protestors coming out and protesting every time a murder occurs in these communities, be mindful that they’re trying to fix the problem from the root. He said most activists have already been doing the work speaking in communities and schools and even through their music, but what was needed was an amending at the political and systemic levels.
He invited the CoP to sit with activists to begin discussions on fixing the problem from a systemic level and cease going after the window dressing.
He said the solution was not locking up black boys and girls but giving them actual opportunities to achieve better in life to become better people.
“We are accustomed seeing ourselves in one type of light, driving one type of car, living in one type of place, learning a certain type of money, eating in certain places and so we have lost the ability to dream, give us back our ability to dream, we will become better people. And that is where the fight is, not in the streets, pulling guns and trying to lock up every black boy for a couple of ounces of weed,” Muwakil said.
He said charity or handouts through corporations in T&T was not going to help anybody come out of their situation, nor were the many social programmes that acted as an aid because they do not help in the ways that will create the type of change that is needed.
“Stop calling us animals, stop calling us pests, stop calling us cockroaches. We are living breathing people who can think for ourselves and have real solutions that can be maintained and can take people out of the conditions they are in. The murder toll would not stop growing by simply killing or incarcerating young black boys and girls,” he said.