It was not one of the biggest protests, but COLA and Belizeans for Justice stepped up pressure on the government today on a wide gamut of issues from the recent eviction of squatters to the expulsion of Marcel Cardona and the troubles in the transportation industry. The protesters did the talk and walked the walk for about two hours in downtown Belize City. Unlike last Wednesday’s protest, the crowd today was better organized and the police was less restrictive. News Five’s Jose Sanchez found the militant Moses Sulph and Yolanda Schakron, at the frontlines of their sustained protest.
Jose Sanchez, Reporting
Fresh from their impromptu strike on Bel China Bridge, Belizeans for Justice and COLA received a permit to demonstrate their displeasure with the government’s handling of the Chetumal Street squatters. The crowd gathered at Constitution Park at nine a.m.
Moses Sulph, President, COLA
“The purpose of this protest is basically to highlight that persons were displaced because their houses were torn down. And we want to highlight that we are calling on the government to relocate these people somewhere where they can start their lives again and get back to their regular lives. So this protest is not to say squatting is illegal or legal; we are saying that what was done was wrong—the way their houses were torn down—and we are saying now we are asking for you to relocate them. Give these people an alternative where they can build back their houses whole you assist them in surveying that area and cutting out that area.”
Yolanda Schakron, Belizeans for Justice
“Belizeans for Justice formed because of the crime situation, but we are here because of the bus situation, with the people who are unemployed, with the people who were taken off the land (the squatters). We are not advocating for illegal things, but what we are saying is it’s the way these people were taken off the land was wrong. They were violated, their human rights were violated and we are standing in solidarity with every injustice that is being committed in our country.”
It was a protest for all causes as many disenfranchised persons showed up. Family and friends of Mark and Gary Seawell who are facing extradition to the United States, protested the Justice system.
Ervin Seawell, Protesting for Detained Sons
“They no di get justice in the court. Justice fail we as far as I say. I heard that the Prime Minister done sign out our boys from long time. I just want the country know that dah we today, but one by one all ah we di suffer.”
Floyd Davis, Protesting for Detained Seawell Brothers
“What Mister Seawell is saying is that all he is asking for is for the government to give Mark and Gary Seawell due process which every Belizean born have a right to. They noh di ask for no hands out or nothing. We want the system work for Mark and Gary just like how the system work for Rhett and other people. Four and a half years under the Belize constitution, the only persons who are not entitled to bail is an accused murdered. Mark and Gary dah noh wah accused murderer ladies and gentlemen and we just need the Belizean fi know that that dah fi we son, dah fi we kid. If they can’t get justice here home dah Belize, when they go dah America, dehn dead. Guess why? Because I live it; I live it. Dehn dead. That dah thirty years. How can a forty-one year old man spend thirty years over deh?”
Gone but not forgotten, supporters of Orange Walk East Representative Marcel Cardona came to on his behalf.
Hadith Sosa, Protesting for Marcel Cardona’s Upliftment Committee
“We are a uniformed group named the Upliftment Committee, which is under the Honorable Marcel Cardona. It is an independent committee; we are not under any political flags. And we stand here today in solidarity with the many injustices that this government has done to our people. Wherever there is an injustice, we will be out there standing in solidarity. Today we are here because we stand in solidarity with those people whose homes were destroyed here in Belize City. Yes it is something that happened here in Belize City but we are all Belizeans and we feel the pain too. Even way from Orange Walk, we can feel the pain of what people are going through here.”
Even the Belize Bus Association President, Thomas Shaw, drove in to send a message to the Ministry of Transport.
Thomas Shaw, President, Belize Bus Association
“Basically everything coincides from one crisis to another—we have the citrus, we have the sugar industry, you have the bus industry, you have the lands. And what I am out here today for is to give my support and for us to be united. Our meeting today is to get our members united. United we stand; divided we fall. And basically today that is our main objective to get everybody back on board and for us to have a better industry in this country.”
And after singing the National Anthem the protestors left Constitution Park with chants for justice. Though the placards were small, the empathic messages read: “I want justice. I am a single mother with five children and I need a piece of land for my children and I.”
“Mister Boots, you are talking about immigrants? You forget you are an immigrant too? The only Belizeans here are the Mayan people.”
Felipe Martinez, Squatter
“I hope the minister answer about fi we problem because we are hurting, the rain and everything. We want an answer from him. What they are going to do with us because it is the responsibility to look for us.”
“If they can find land elsewhere maybe in the rural part of Belize district, would you be willing to go say to a different community, up the road?”
“Well in the case, it woulda be too strong for us because we have too much buildings. But if he moves the buildings, then I don’t mind if they get another place for us.”
A fixed sign in a yard along the route on Central American Boulevard reads “From Roots to Fruits Only for Boots.” And though it is a land issue, the protestors’ anger is the fruit of Martinez’s comments after the destruction of their Chetumal Street homes. Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.