Rain and sporadic infighting among political activists marred protest action to address violence against women outside of Parliament, yesterday.
The protesters, who were an amalgamation of several groups, began with unified chants calling for legislative change but their activity eventually petered out as some groups descended into shouting matches with each other over their differing philosophical views on how to address the situation.
The protest began well before midday as a handful of protesters with placards gathering opposite the Abercromby Street entrance to the Red House.
They were soon joined by other groups including one large group of activists, who marched to the location after gathering at the Queen’s Park Savannah, earlier yesterday.
That group dressed mainly in black and carrying placards aimed at gender-based violence, which was led by businessman Gerald Aboud and Pan Trinbago delegate Gregory Lindsay, was stopped by a large contingent of police officers, who were positioned outside the Red House.
A news team from Guardian Media was within an earshot of both men as the officers asked whether they had received permission from Police Commissioner Gary Griffith to host a protest on the streets and block the side-walk.
Aboud was seen showing the officer a screen-shot of a text message exchange purported between himself and Griffith, which he (Aboud) said granted permission.
The officer was seen showing Aboud a document on his phone, which appeared to be an official letter from Griffith granting social activist Wendell Eversley permission to hold a silent protest after staging a walk similar to the one he does annually on the anniversary of the 1990 attempted coup.
The officer was then heard advising the group to relocate inside Woodford Square to avoid blocking the pavement and the busy roadway.
While many complied, Aboud and Lindsay remained outside as they shouted chants and maintained that they were exercising their constitutional right to freedom of speech in a public place.
Aboud was arrested first and Lindsay was heard challenging the officers to do the same to him.
“If you arrest him, you have to arrest me,” Lindsay was heard saying before the police officers graciously granted his request.
Both men, who were transported to Central Police Station, were eventually released without being charged and rejoined the protest.
In contrast to before, Aboud and Lindsay were notable demure and only lifted their voices when their interview with media personnel was briefly interviewed by activist Garth Christopher and a group of other vocal activists.
In a brief interview with Guardian Media, both Aboud and Lindsay said that they held no grudges against the police, who treated them well during their brief detention.
“They (the police) were just doing their job just trying to make sure things do not get out of control,” Aboud said.
Both men said they did not want their arrest to tarnish the image of the movement they were advocating for.
“Today I paid the workers on my farm and told my mother that I am coming down here and am prepared to get locked up because there is something called good trouble,” Lindsay said.
“Today travelling for the brief moment in the back of that police car, I had a little inkling of what that lady (Bharatt) went through,” Lindsay added.
“The judicial system has failed. If it was working, Andrea would be alive today. This cannot be a democracy if there is no law,” Aboud said, before being repeatedly interrupted.
In a brief interview, teacher Seema Suraj, who organised a motorcade last weekend and participated in the march to Woodford Square, claimed that the demonstration was hijacked by political protesters.
“When we got here our intention was not to attack any particular party. Unfortunately, when we got here it was very political and many activists left,” Suraj said.
“It is not about politics. It is about change and justice for all,” Suraj said.
Environmental activist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh was also present at the demonstration and used the opportunity to present Parliamentarians entering the Red House for yesterday’s debate with a copy of a seven-point plan to reform the criminal justice system.
While many in attendance endured periodic rainfall and sheltered under the large trees in Woodford Square, most dispersed before 4 pm.