Today, teachers and public officers went to Orange Walk Town to continue their ongoing protest actions against the Briceno Government.

Today also marks the end of the 4th week on strike for the Belize National Teachers Union, and the 3rd week on strike for the Public Service Union.

It's part of a series of public demonstrations from the joint union, but since this is the Prime Minister's hometown, they chose to march in protest in front of his house, and several of the businesses owned by his family.

More than that, the unions marched for 4 hours around the northern town to engage with the residents. They are insisting that the strike is more about good governance than it is against the 10% pay cut, which is basically a done deal. Our news team was in Orange Walk Town for most of the day, and Daniel Ortiz reports:

Teachers and public officers from all across the country congregated this morning on the San Lorenzo Road in Orange Walk Town.

The town was still wet from the heavy rains last night and early this morning, but the teachers came equipped with many umbrellas, just in case the downpour continued during their march.

After all of the different union branches arrived, BNTU's Orange Walk Branch took the lead as hosts.

They were sure to remind their fellow trade unionists that this protest, no matter how boisterous, needed to remain a peaceful venture.

Alejandro Hernandez - President, BNTU Orange Walk
"We are going to show everybody, starting with the Prime Minister, that we are a people of peace. We are not afraid because we promote peace. We don't promote violence. Those who are afraid, it's because they have something to hide, or they have things closed within that they don't want to be known. We are not afraid!'"

Jorge Mejia - 1st VP, BNTU
"We will march today. We will walk today. We will demonstrate today, and we are happy to see the numbers today. We are not discouraged."

Before today's march through the main streets of Orange Walk Town, the unions sought permission from the police authorities. They made it no secret that they intended to march past the Prime Minister's home, as well as a few of the business places that his family owns.

Alejandro Hernandez - President, BNTU Orange Walk
"We already gave the route, and we are not going to change it. We are going on our route because this is people's power! (Yeah!)"

It is unclear why it was done, and on whose instruction, but early this morning, police blockades were set up on the street in front of the Prime Minister's house. The teachers defiantly declared that they had no intention of diverting from their chosen route.

Alejandro Hernandez - President, BNTU Orange Walk
"We are really really happy to have all of you here, and I would like you to tell everybody that BNTU is here. BNTU! (All the way!)"

And after a bit of organization for social distance and COVID safety, a massive crowd of union members and their supporters began a very long trek through key parts of Orange Walk Town. Throughout the day, the protest remained civil. The demonstrators chanted their fair share of cheeky rebukes against corruption and against past elected politicians who have abused the public's trust.

The only moment of tension occurred when the teachers and public officers arrived at the blockade that would have stopped them from marching in front of the Prime Minister's residence on Dunn Street. It was clear that the police did not want them to go in that direction, but the teachers defiantly forced their way through by removing the blockade themselves.

Apart from that small act of defiance, the only detectable change in the crowd's mood was an increase in the volume of their chants.

Hon. Elena Smith - National President, BNTU
"I don't see why there would be a need for the PM to have them block the street where he lives on, because nobody wants to go and do the PM anything. It's a street and we have a right to walk on the street, so I really don't know the reason behind doing that. If its fear and you are afraid of your people then something is wrong."

"We notice that the public officers and teachers did not behave in any way aggressive or disrespectful to the people who were in his yard or the police officers were watching standing guard."

Hon. Elena Smith - National President, BNTU
"That was the route that we had planned and so all we did was follow the route that we submitted. Usually that's what we do, submit a route and go by the route. So they were the ones who block that area and then would have caused us to have to change the route, but our people said that's the route, that's what we submitted and we are going to follow the route."

Gerald Henry Jr. - President, Public Service Union
"I believe that street is still within Belize if I am not mistaken. I didn't bring my passport today and there is no immigration at the entrance of the street. So I believe that we could have turn down there and I guess that those who move the barrier felt the same way as I did and so we politely walked over the barriers, nothing was destroyed except probably the tape. We can purchase it back for them. We have been doing this thing for weeks now. There is no violence up to this point, nothing has been disturbed, nothing has been broken, nothing has been injured, except maybe their pride in certain circumstances and their egos, but those are necessaries that have to take place when we are dealing with individuals who seem to want to run this country as though it's a monarchy and not a democracy."

From the perspective of the unions, today's demonstration in Orange Walk served its purpose.

"Talk to us about the representation of BNTU, we understand it comes from nearly all the branches across the country."

Hon. Elena Smith - National President, BNTU
"Yes we do have all branches, all our 10 branches are here today."

"Talk about the logistics about getting them here today."

Hon. Elena Smith - National President, BNTU
"This is something that we have been doing for quite a while, for years in fact and so when we have these decisions our presidents go ahead and they do the issues in terms of the busses and people come out. You put the call out, people signed up and then whoever signs up we bring."

"We notice you guys did an extended trip around Orange Walk Town, maybe some 3-4 hours of walking."

Hon. Elena Smith - National President, BNTU
"That was the plan, because as you know we are in the town of the prime minister and so the branch then plan the route in a way that we would be able to pass certain areas and certain business places, the PM's house."

Gerald Henry Jr.
"This is all about Belize. This has absolutely nothing to do with you, your family, your friends. This has to do about us, our families and the country of Belize."

"You would argue that walking or pinpointing these particular businesses owned by the prime minister of his family is making it personal."

Gerald Henry Jr.
"Not necessarily, I mean he is the leader of the country, so it is a way that we are trying to ask him to please Mr. Leader come and lead us. You are our leader as the prime minister of the country which is the leader of the government. We as public officers formed the executive branch of the government. We are 14,000 plus in his charge if you want to call it that and you can't come and sit around the table with us? We did that to ask him to please Mr. Leader come let us sit down, since you are the one who will ultimately makes these decisions, come around the table so that when the decisions are made at least we feel a bit more that they are final, as opposed to what has been taking place right now over the engagements that we have been having, where we believe that we had reached a final arrangement and then they change on us, because it went back to the prime minister and something different comes out. I certainly enjoyed the walk and the unity that was shown out here today and the solidarity that we got not only from amongst ourselves, but also from the general public giving us signs of unity and solidarity and that they are with us and certainly that made the walk better for us, because at each point when you may be getting tired and you see support it energizes you and so we are looking forward to these continued actions and eventually we will be inviting the public to walk with us."

As you saw in our story, the number of BNTU green shirts, the PSU yellow shirts were easily the most visible in the crowd. But, today's union protest was bolstered with support from the Nurses Association of Belize, and the Belize Progressive Teachers Union.

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