A groundswell of opposition to the COVID-19 vaccines and mandatory inoculation is taking a coordinated form, with activists and religious groups urging boycotts, protest and marches to coincide with similar movements in neighbouring Caribbean territories.
Self-styled social activist Winston Clarke, a Rastafarian group and the Nation of Islam are part of a newly formed coalition to press the authorities against introducing vaccine mandates.
A march, to be held on Saturday has been organized in response to plans by the Mia Mottley administration for possible mandated COVID-19 vaccinations among frontline workers. While members of the Social Partnership at large have expressed their support for regular testing and vaccinations, the topic of vaccine mandates has seen noted push back from a vocal sections of society.
Clarke called for a boycott of stores and restaurants that favour vaccine mandates, claiming his stance was the “majority” opinion.
“Instead of reacting, we need to be proactive,” said Clarke. “If you find that there are businesses that are going against the majority, because we are the majority, we need to maybe boycott some businesses. Businesses like Lionel C. Hill [supermarket], Tides [restaurant], we need to boycott them, and just stop and they will see the error of their ways because we are the majority.”
Clarke further suggested that Saturday’s march, from Pelican Village to Independence Square, is timed to coincide with similar protests in other CARICOM member states against mandatory vaccine legislation.
He told journalists: “Our walk is going to coincide with the one in Trinidad; Jamaica will be holding theirs Friday, US Virgin Islands will be holding theirs on Monday, because we are united in our simultaneous movements. It won’t be just Saturday, we will be consistently doing it; it’s an objective, and it’s a mission.”
Emmanuel Beryllia of the Rastafarian Progressive Movement who will be joining the march, said that the planned public display should not be seen as any anti-government ploy but an attempt to bring “awareness” of a right to choose when it concerns their bodies.
He said: “The idea is that if you reach a point now in Barbados that if you go against [and] decide you don’t want to be a part of this particular experience which is called the vaccine, same way how people have a right to choose to do it, there are others who have a right to choose not to. If you are going to mandate something that is experimental, which by the way is completely illegal, then it tells us we as a nation are headed in a direction that people need to start paying attention.
“What we are doing is bringing focus to the changes that are coming to the people, and our hope and nothing else is to educate the public. This is not a protest against the Government, this is not anti-anything, we are pro-life, and because we are pro-life, we are taking the choice to preserve life.”
A student minister in the Nation of Islam, Ibdul Rahman, couched opposition to vaccine mandates as a “egregious” human rights offence.
He said: “The proposition that is currently being debated by members of our government, members of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association and other local business entities is an abhorrent and flagrant violation of the human rights and dignity of the Barbadian people.
“We call on all Barbadians citizens and residents to stand with us, regardless of race, class, colour, ethnicity, political or spiritual philosophy and affiliation, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated. We call on the people of Barbados to stand together in a public display of our collective disapproval of the egregious idea of anyone attempting to mandate, force, or coerce COVID experimental vaccination in Barbados.”
As the level of vaccination notches above 28 per cent of the population, health authorities have voiced concerns about a resurgence of COVID-19 infections, driven by the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.
Doctors say this strain of the respiratory illness targets younger people and threatens unvaccinated people with severe illness, long-term conditions, hospitalization and death.