In the wake of Saturday’s aborted Black Lives Matter demonstration, Prime Minister Mia Mottley should speak out against the injustices facing black people in the US, Pan Africanist Dr Deryck Murray has urged.
But Dr Murray, the last Director of the Government’s disbanded Commission on Pan-African Affairs, said he believes that the protest, organized by the Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration, was undermined even before it began.
Police stepped in to end the demonstration after scores of Barbadians turned out to protest the extrajudicial killing of an unarmed African-American, George Floyd, by a police officer in the US city of Minneapolis, which triggered worldwide outrage and protests against systemic racism.
Dr Murray praised pan-African activist David Denny for organizing the march and urged more people to come out and demonstrate on the next occasion.
Denny has already signalled his intention to stage another demonstration – this time with as many as 200 participants.
He explained that instead of a stationary demonstration, he would be applying for permission to stage a march in the area around the American Embassy this Saturday.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Dr Murray, the Director of the Centre for Hybrid Studies and a lecturer in Science, History and Culture at the University of the West Indies, said that following the extrajudicial killing of Floyd by a white police officer on May 25, Government should have taken a strong stance and supported the Black Lives Matter movement.
Dr Murray said: “As a country, we should have responded to what happened in the US and when I say as a country I mean either our Minister of Foreign Affairs or our Prime Minister should have spoken directly to what happened in the same way that several international agencies, the University of the West Indies [and] several governments spoke out against what is seen as ongoing injustice and police brutality in the US of whites against black people.
“The first response a country with over 95 per cent of its population being black, the first response we should have given should have been from our leadership and so the Prime Minister really should have commented on the situation and expressed Barbados’ concern. This is important because for almost any other ethnic group if an injustice like that happens anywhere in the world you are certain to hear an outcry from either ethic groups from the originating country whether it be China, India or somewhere in Europe, so by this account it should have been heard from the highest level.”
But Dr Murray said while that did not occur, Government should have supported any planned protest in support of the cause.
But he said that because permission was only given for ten people to attend the protest it meant the march was undermined even before it had begun.
He said: “Since that did not happen and civil society decided to take up the protest in the streets, then the onus should have been on Government, starting with the AG [Attorney General], to give full support to free and open protest, understanding that we are still following the COVID-19 protocols and so on, but we should have been given free and open freedom to protest in numbers.
“To restrict a protest to ten people, in effect it allows a protest but a protest without demonstrating power because in almost any instance power is demonstrated in numbers. So the protest would have been undermined in terms of its power from the very beginning when it was decided that only ten people could march.
“I think the Government of Barbados, the [Attorney General] and the police should do whatever is necessary to allow as many people as possible to protest peacefully and to let the United States know through its Embassy and the media that what is happening has been happening for too long and is not acceptable.”