by Latoya Burnham
Come Saturday, residents of St. Thomas and other interested parties will gather in Bridgefield to begin a peaceful protest in Reece Road, the site of B’s Recycling Centre.
Although it has been three weeks since the fire, residents of Reece Road and other surrounding districts are still hopping mad about what they say has been “disrespectful” treatment from the management of B’s and Government ministers and agencies they say should be responsible for ensuring the health, safety and environmental purity of their area.
Last night MP Cynthia Forde facilitated a second town hall meeting for residents to air their concerns about the continued impact of the March 25 fire on them as well as to plan their next step.
By the end of the evening, about 42 or the 45-odd persons in the lecture theatre of the Lester Vaughan Secondary School agreed they should proceed with the protest march, which was first suggested last week at the same venue.
Opening the floor for comments, moderator Selwyn Brooks encouraged the significantly smaller crowd to the one that gathered last week to be frank about what they wanted to do.
Resident Nicholas Crichlow suggested waiting to organise a bigger event where they could be assured of a larger number of people and which would allow them to sensitise more residents and wider afield.
He suggested as well that the march should only be the start of action, and that there should also be an injunction filed where residents came together to see something done about the location of the site.
Another unnamed resident also suggested that pushing back the march by another week or so would allow time for residents of Bagatelle and Hoytes Village and even Vaucluse to join in the protest as they too had been significantly affected.
The majority of those gathered though remained in favour of marching, suggesting that to push it back would cause a loss of momentum. They also maintained that they wanted the rest of Barbados to come out in solidarity because the matter was critical enough to the environment, health and the wellbeing of the entire island, that it had become not just an issue for St. Thomas residents.
Forde told residents that as had been suggested, the march did not have to be their only option, but that after the protest they could decide what further actions to take.
She said after last week’s meeting she had applied for and secured permission from the Commissioner of Police to host the march, on April 20 between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m., with protesters bearing no more than 25 placards.
It was also agreed that protesters would congregate at the nearby Bridgefield playing field ahead of the 8 a.m. start and would dress in black, symbolic of the dark plumes of smoke that billowed from the fire on March 25.
“We don’t know and I ask God don’t let the contaminants affect us in the way that perhaps they might but the only way we can get peace of mind, that we can remove that heap from there… We do not want to be waiting…
“If Bagatelle does not want it, why should Reece Road and Cane Garden want it. Why should Vaucluse want it, when Arch Hall and the people downwind in Bennetts, going down through Sea View, Rock Hall and Content now feel a new kind of health impact as a result of what could happen at Vaucluse.
“There are so many other places in Barbados where the wind would blow that fire off to sea that it does not come anywhere to impact on people in residential areas,” said Forde.
“Unless your voices are collective, that’s the point Mr. Crichlow is making; … come out in your numbers and march like ‘Boots’ … it is about you. Make it your business, in your interest to walk. At the end of the day the lives of residents and the rest of St. Thomas matter,” she said.
Residents spend the last half hour of the meeting composing slogans for the placards that they will be carrying on Saturday.
“We have to be assertive, respectful, but impactful, with what we do and numbers really count. So I am looking for 100 or more… It is a very critical, serious matter,” she said, urging residents to do what they had to to ensure the recycling plant is relocate. [email protected]