BML Workers, 40+ In the Cell Block

Last night, we gave you an extensive look at the protest from 50 angry BML workers who threw bags of garbage in front of City Hall.

That's after things came to a head because the Council owes their employer for 19 weeks of services or almost 1.48 million dollars. There is no timeline on when the company will be paid, and this has spilt over to the workers because BML can't afford to keep paying them.

Those workers raged, vented at the Mayor, and made a powerful statement with their pile of garbage spread on the street, but they also paid a price for it. First, they were in lockdown for several hours, then they were charged, and then, they spent an entire day at court waiting to be arraigned.

But, we start first with the lock-down. We showed you pictures last night of how it looked inside that crowded cellblock, and when they were released. We spoke with one of the employees as she exited the Queen Street Police Station after getting police bail. Here's what she told us:

Geovannie Brackett
"Ma'am this is first time you have been locked up?"

Faith Flores - BML Employee
"This is my first time."

Geovannie Brackett
"What message you have to send right now to the Mayor?"

Faith Flores - BML Employee
"All I got to tell them that this is not a political thing. This is all about us and our children; a job."

Geovannie Brackett
"You feel that this could have been dealt with much differently?"

Faith Flores - BML Employee
"This could have been dealt with much better than this, than to have us out here punishing - locking up us in a cell. I caught asthma in there and they left me like that. There are [#%!] everywhere in there and got all us women in there to punish like this. One woman collapse in there and they took her out when he already fell. Hello, what goes around, comes around."

Courthouse Full to Overflowing With BML Employees

That was followed this morning, with a summons of all of those 40+ employees who ended up being charged for yesterday's protest.

Today's criminal proceedings ended up being an all-day event, and 7News at the courthouse the entire time. Daniel Ortiz has that story:

Daniel Ortiz reporting
All around Treasury Lane, the forty-plus BML workers who were charged last night, paced back and forth or stood around, waiting for Magistrates Court Police to call them in for their arraignment.

After about an hour or so, one of the lead employees emerged with the document that would need for the hearing.

Their attorney worked on getting everything together, so that the hearing would be as streamlined as possible.

But about half hour later, she emerged from Court's Office, with bad news.

Audrey Matura-Shepherd - Attorney
"I have an update for you all, the reason they are taking so long is because they don't have a courtroom big enough to put everybody, one and two, the Police, advised by somebody in their wisdom, had advised that instead of putting everybody on one charge sheet, they will split it up. So right now the Police is at Queen Street Police Station preparing new charge sheets to give you all. So we will be out here a long time because they have 41 charge sheets to prepare. Then they will come and serve it to you again, then they will have to lodge it, then we will go to court and even the bail process will take long. So if you all have something to do, children to take care of, quickly do it and come back because this will be all day. But you need to be here to be charged and we need to make sure that the persons who will bail you are here."

So, it was it a marathon waiting session for these workers, who weren't the least bit pleased with the state for bringing charges against them for simply voicing their frustrations.

Rudolph Gamboa - BML Employee
"They charge so many women and men yesterday to throw dirt, nobody did throw dirt on the street yesterday, it's the truck that did that. They charge 48 of us, they didn't charge me, because I am not a fool. Why does the Mayor doesn't pay the boss?"

Faith Flores - BML Employee
"I was ill-treated there, I was sick with asthma and they left us there in that cell, 22 of us. No lights, no fan, no nothing."

A few of them feel especially betrayed by the actions of the Mayor because they were once a part of the City Hall before he entered office.

Faith Flores - BML Employee
"I am from city council, from I am sweeping streets, we even help dig city council and here I am still standing working for them to keep this city clean."

"What happen yesterday? Did you regret it?"

Faith Flores - BML Employee
"I don't regret at all."

Helen Samuels - BML Employee
"I do 5 years at city council. I clean drain, I dig drain, I clean the street and I never been there yet. But this year is the worst year we been through with Darrell Bradley. Why don't he pay the boss so the boss can pay us? I don't like the situation that he is doing to us because we are poor people. Every time a situation comes up and this matter comes up, its poor people that suffers. Why does it have to be us that suffers? Right now they don't want to give the boss back the contract, because they already have someone else there to take over the contract."

Beverly Hendrix - BML Employee
"We did not just come here, we have been here for a long time for them to treat us like this. The boss doesn't want to let go any of us, but if he cannot pay us... some of us are not working right now. Some of us have to sign and go home because he doesn't have any money to pay us."

Faith Flores - BML Employee
"When it was the city council, everything was running nice. This is the roughest time we ever meet under this government. Under Zanaida it wasn't like this too. They use to threaten us they won't give us this and that, but Zanaida Moya still give it to us because she is woman with feelings too."

Helen Samuels - BML Employee
"What happen to us? Every time it's only the streets they will deal with? We don't even have a sensible house to live in to show for the amount of years that we work. We don't even have anything sensible to show for the years that we work and they want to come and cut us short? What the hell is wrong with them? I want they come and pay our boss. All what we are asking for is to pay our boss."

Faith Flores - BML Employee
"Be real to us. Pay the boss so he could pay us."

Rudolph Gamboa - BML Employee
"We have to eat. School is opening up soon. I have 3 children going to school right now and I can't pay school fees yet."

Glenford Michael Bowen - Bailing Out Friend
"We are old workers, we are all black people fighting for survival. So if we can't survive what will we look on."

Mayor Darrell Bradley had lawyer business at the Court House today, and when the media asked him for an interview, he obliged. The angry BML workers took the opportunity to corner him.

They wanted him to face them, wouldn't take no for an answer

Darrell Bradley - Mayor, City Hall
"We can do the interview at city hall if you still want the interview."

How Do You Arraign so Many?

When the Mayor left the court house that close to midday, the workers waited for another 3 hours before the Magistrate's Court could accommodate them. In total, 41 were jointly charged with taking part in an unlawful meeting under the Public Meeting and Public Procession Act.

They were jointly charged, which means that they all have to be arraigned together to follow proper procedures of the court. But, there is no court big enough to accommodate 41 defendants in one arraignment. That's what caused the delay, and the attorney for the BML workers explained more to us this evening:

Audrey Matura-Shepherd - Attorney
"We waited all morning. We are here from 9am. At 10am I was informed that they can't find a courtroom big enough and that the persecution was advised to split the charges, so we stayed here until midday, I kept hoping that we would have started some of them since they were splitting the charges. I was told at that point that they had done 15 charge sheets, so I said can we start the 15, but then the inspector told me no, we have to wait until two o' clock to come back at two and we will do all 41. At two o'clock I called again and they said that they have only completed 22 charge sheets, I said no problem we will do the 22. However, when we came and they started the arraignment process I realized they never brought new charge sheets, they did new court books which are different. My clients cannot be charged under the old charge sheet if they want to split up the charges, if they do the old charge sheet everybody has to be in the same room, but that's not what they want to do. Somewhere along the line they faulted and did not create the new charge sheets or they created it and left it at the police station so we are here waiting for it. Right now all the gentlemen and women are being placed in different court rooms so we have Anthony Sylvester assisting and Kareem Musa assisting and myself because I can't be in three courtrooms at the same time. But fortunately we were able to stand down all the matters right now because we are waiting for the charge sheets to arrive."

"If they don't arrive then the people are on police bail and they will have to come back tomorrow, but for now we know that 22 will be process and the remainder will have to come tomorrow. So it's going to be a third day of this circus that's going on because that's what it has amounted to now."

"Did they give you a reason for the delay or what causing the problem?"

Audrey Matura-Shepherd - Attorney
"Honestly, the only explanation I have is that the police are overworked and I could appreciate it because after spending the entire day at the police station yesterday and seeing all the paperwork that these police officers have to put in to get a charge sheet prepared - I sympathized with them and amidst all of that they have to be doing every other work assigned to them. So it's very difficult for them and it's not making excuse for them, its dealing with the reality that we have limited resources and the limited resources we have we are pushing it to the limit because someone decides that they must charge 41 workers fighting to get their monies - that's how as simple as it is."

Geovannie Brackett
"But would you agree that this could have been dealt in a more amicable way?"

Audrey Matura-Shepherd - Attorney
"Of course it can, but I don't think that the people involved want any want amicable solution. You have to understand what's happening here you know, these are BML workers, the longer you keep them in the system they can't work, that means less productivity in the company, this means less work for the company, the company is losing and if they have to come back again tomorrow it's a third day of lost for them. So you have to understand that this is a tactic to intimidate people from not taking to the streets and it is tactic of going after a company who you clearly have a fight. Amidst all of that I say the elephants are fighting and the grass are being trampled on - the grass are my clients."

22 of the 41 BML workers were arraigned before 3 separate magistrates, and they were all granted bail.

In addition to that charge, which they pleaded not guilty to, they were all fined $500 for the charge of littering, which they have 15 days to pay. They didn't have to be arraigned for that charge because it is treated a traffic ticket. If they default, there is an additional late fee of $130, and $30 for each day beyond the deadline.

Importantly, the workers have been granted a permit to have legal protests on Thursday and Friday.

And as we told you last night, PUP media personality Albert Vaughan, was detained by police while the BML workers were protesting yesterday. He claims that he was unfairly targeted by police because he was doing his job of taking pictures for the Belize Times Newspaper. Today, at court, he told us that the officers unfairly charged him for loitering,

Albert Vaughan
"I came out there to do my work as a reporter for the Belize Times and Positive Vibes and that's what I was doing when I was hauled across the street by the police and say that I was loitering. No, that is foolishness."

Daniel Ortiz
"We've made to understand that your personal camera the police officers have decided to delete all your pictures. Is that correct and what your reaction to that?"

Albert Vaughan
"Yeah, that is correct and I will see my attorney this morning and whatsoever the procedure is to make a formal complaint. These are pictures that are to go in the Belize Times this weekend. I have no picture to give my editor."

Senior Superintendent Broaster has denied deleting anything off Vaughan's phone or camera. Immediately after his interview with us, Vaughan was called by a police court orderly to be arraigned, but at the advice of his attorney, he refused to present himself for the hearing, because his police bail noted that he was to report to court for the charge of loitering on Thursday, August 8. Immediately, you should recognize that this is an error, because this Thursday is August 7. Vaughan told us that he his attorney is trying to query if it's Thursday or Friday that police want him to report to Magistrate's Court to be arraigned.

Channel 7