And while the Department of Social Services was counting heads, COLA and the Belizeans for Justice were again ramping up the rhetoric.
They held a press conference at the Chetumal street site - where the nationality of the squatters was the central assertion. As you heard yesterday Works Minister Boots Martinez caught into an exchange with the fiery Maria Menjivar which more or less ended with him declaring that he was a born Belizean, and that she was not.
But she and the other squatters are naturalized Belzieans, while their children born Belizeans. That point was brought into vary sharp focus as was the assertion that they are being illegally moved:..
Moses Sulph, President-COLA
"We want to make it very clear that there are those who believe that the persons out here who are occupying these land and houses are not Belizeans and they are somehow consider to be what some of the derogative words we like to use considered as "aliens". We are saying that it is clear today that as you can see that these people are Belizeans. So if that was the excuse of the government to try and continue to oppress and to segregate and so marginalized a set of people by saying that they are migrant and immigrants when it is clear that they are Belizeans. Many of us have grandparents who were never born here, as long as you came here legally or illegally and you obtain you papers legally - you are a Belizean and as we can see all these people out here have passports, they have social security that says Belizean because they are Belizeans."
Yolanda Schakron, President - Belizeans for Justice
"Belizeans for Justice is here to stand in solidarity with these people who are at the moment displace. Not because of a natural disaster but a manmade disaster name "Boots Martinez". I want to ask Mr. Boots Martinez today - I hear him playing this race card. I am a Hispanic of Belize but I am a Belizean first. Mr. Boots that race card is not working. We are all Belizeans - black, white, Chinese everybody - we are Belizeans. I want to address the leader of this country Mr. Dean Oliver Barrow - where is your compassion for the people of Belize? If you don't have it for the people then have it for the children of this nation. I am a mother and I would not like my children to be out here living under the conditions that these children are presently living under. Mr. Barrow get you act together. We elected you Mr. Barrow to serve the people. You will not succeed in continue to oppress the Belizean people. We have gotten enough and we will stand up and these organizations will not be intimidated. We will not be move."
"Yesterday they took me to jail and process me like a criminal, but I must tell you all one thing - that just get me stronger. I am not afraid because they Lord that I serve is greater that you all Mr. Barrow and Mr. Boots. You two don't have a heart. And I want to tell you something that all the riches you have - you will not take that with you anywhere."
"Before I began speaking about the unlawful conduct and the unconstitutional conduct of the government and those personnel's from the Ministry of Works - I would like to just reiterate what has been said already that Belizeans who are unable to find land elsewhere in other part of the country and other parts of the city - that they are force to actually come and chop out a piece of land and basically have this become their own property. You have this gentleman who is standing here with me Mr. Paul - he is a registered voter in the Queen Square - in the Prime Minister's constituency. So it's not only people who are supposedly are just immigrants but you have Belizeans who also are behind here and who also are trying to make a life right behind here with the other persons. So that is something that I think the Belizean public has to be cognizant of and have to very aware of that you have Belizeans here. In fact in our constitution, you need to understand as well that the constitution of Belize gives every person - it not only talk about Belizeans but every person who lives in Belize, who reside in Belize, who are in Belize - give them certain rights. One of those rights is that you can't just come and break up and destroy people property - people who have invested their monies, they work hard, they toil, they sweat and they build something that is it within their means that they called home. It might not be a mansion, but it's what they call home because that's all they can afford because they live a decent life and these people are not criminals - nobody back here have been convicted by a court of law - nobody back here are criminals and its very disrespectful - it's very demeaning to the office of a minister of government for the Minister of Works to be on national television to be calling people criminals when if fact that is far from the truth."
"It very important for you to understand that the Minister of Lands - the commissioner of lands - nobody have the authority - none of these people have the authority to order police officers and order security personnel to come and demolish the homes of citizens. The national lands act basically set out what is the extent of the powers of the Minister of Lands and the Commissioner of Lands - They don't have any power to do what they did in the early morning of Wednesday. No power whatsoever. The police might be following instructions but they also must tell the political bosses that 'look we have a duty to uphold the law' they don't have a duty to break the law because that's what they did - they broke the law in the early morning of Wednesday, they destroy and demolish the homes of these people. The people property has been destroyed and demolish unlawfully - illegally. Every single person who have their homes destroyed - you have lost what many of you for months and years have actually work towards to construct. You have a right to actually go to the Supreme Court and ask the Supreme Court for redress - ask the Supreme Court to have the government pay you for your lost but also to pay you for the anguish, the embarrassment and the pain and suffering that you have been put to."
"So I am here to say that you are on good footing and on contrary to what people say - squatters do have rights. The laws of our country enshrine that squatters do have rights. What should have happen and what the government should have done is that if they wanted to remove the persons who are living here - who are squatting - they should have taken legal process in getting a court order, asking the people to remove within a certain period of time. That was not done. What happen was that a minister making phone calls directing and ordering the police to demolish the homes of these good people."
In related news Felipe and Santos Martinez - the father and son who were detained on the bridge were released yesterday afternoon.
The public pressure from COLA continues next week. On Tuesday, COLA has applied for a permit to have a protest through the streets followed by a rally at Battlefield Park.