YaYa Marin Coleman’s protest of “piss house”
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YaYa Marin Coleman’s protest of “piss house”

YA YA MARIN... Her heart and dedication to justice and equity in Belize is heroic....often protesting solo, will not just talk the talk, but will walk the walk. Thank you Ya Ya. A true Belizean Hero. 

“The Agitator”, Yaya Marin-Coleman, protests the Queen Street “Piss House”

BELIZE CITY, Tue. Nov. 4, 2014 –City goers who passed in front of the Precinct 3 Queen Street Police Station today might have noticed well-known activist Yaya Marin Coleman, along with fellow activist Samiyyah Andrewin-Miranda, displaying placards denouncing the terrible conditions at the infamous “Piss House”, which is the name Belizeans use to refer to the station’s holding cells, situated on the ground floor of the police station.

The very unsanitary “Piss House” is appropriately named – the cells reek of urine, and have reeked of urine for decades. No Commissioner of Police or Minister of Police, under any political administration, PUP or UDP, has seen fit to change the policy regarding the human needs and rights of those detained, or redesign the cells so that they can no longer be called, with absolute truth, the “Piss House.”

Marin-Coleman has turned her attention to what she described as a “violation of people’s human rights” and an eyesore even for the police officers who are tasked with guarding the cell block from time to time.

She said, “I am protesting the holding cells in the country of Belize, in particular, the Queen Street holding cells, because it has become known in Creole as the ‘Piss House’ – the condition has been accepted by people for so long; however, it’s a violation of people’s human rights as far as not being sanitary; there are many people being crowded into small spaces, poor ventilation, [and] bad working conditions for police officers who need to work in the space as well.”

She said that even though the conditions might be the same at police lockups in other parts of the country, she chose that location because it is a prime location on a major thoroughfare which is traversed by many people, including school students, on a daily basis.

Marin-Coleman told Amandala that she got a good reception from most members of the public for the seven and a half hours that she had been out there protesting, although she noted that there are still skeptics who question the rationale of her protest.

“Someone I spoke to said that the people [who are detained] are locked up for committing crimes and I said, ‘It’s not about that; you’re innocent until proven guilty and officials have a responsibility by the State to keep the place sanitary.’ People would be in there for 48 hours or more and not take a shower, [and] I heard that people are not given an opportunity to call their attorney because there is no phone that can call out – those are violations of people’s human rights”, she indicated.

When prodded as to what she hopes to achieve through her stance, “The Agitator”, as she calls herself, replied that it has to do with awareness because many citizens are not conscious that the conditions of the cell blocks are a violation of human rights, and also because those who are affected need to find the courage to speak out about the situation instead of “suffering in silence”.

According to Marin-Coleman, a member of the Human Rights Commission informed her earlier today that he is in the process of drafting a press release in support of her position to bring local and, if necessary, international pressure on the Government of Belize (GOB) to ensure that all holding cells in all police precincts throughout the country are refurbished to meet professional standards.

The activist told us that she will carry on her campaign every Monday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. until the change – which she is confident will take place based on the “love, energy and overwhelming support of Belizeans” – happens.


YaYa’s solitary protest of “piss house” continues

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Jan. 26, 2015–Community activist YaYa Marin Coleman’s message today, as she continued her solitary protest, was a question, handwritten on an off-pink Bristol board, “What is your Piss House story?”

She took up her solitary position on Queen Street, just across from the Queen Street Police Station, which houses the most unsanitary holding cell in the country – which has been dubbed “Piss House” (a title it got even before Belize got its independence in 1981) for good reason.

People are locked in there for days at a time, and there are no toilet facilities, nor anywhere to sleep other than the floor, yes, the sometimes very cold floor. One wonders why there has to be a protest, anyhow; can’t the politicians and the senior officers smell what is before their very noses?

Ya Ya has been protesting the conditions at the Queen Street Police Station holding cell since the first week of November 2014.

Up until now, however, despite a momentary focus of the media on this one-woman protest, the Barrow government has remained noncommittal about improving the conditions at the Queen Street Police Station holding cell, and indeed, at all the holding cells throughout the country.

On that first day that she launched her one-woman protest, Ya Ya declared that she planned to protest the conditions at Belize’s largest police station every Monday, “as long as they give me the permit.”

The Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of National Security, Retired Colonel George Lovell, told 7 News on Christmas Eve that government can, but will not necessarily use funds, to improve the condition of the holding cell.

CEO Lovell said that he had the opportunity to visit the Belmopan Police Station holding cell and, he noted, “I went there the stench, the odor you have are in there. Then you have our police officers working in there and I had to go and ask if there is anything we can do in the interim, because we have to try and fix what we have right now before we can purposely design cells that are well-ventilated and away from where we have our constant day-to-day movements of people and those who administrate the police station.”

Lovell added: “So certainly we need to look at those areas, but I cannot make any promises it will happen any time soon, even though yes, the monies can be used for that.”

So without a specific commitment from the government that they will address the conditions of the “Piss House” condition, Ya Ya will continue to protest.


Photograph courtesy BelizeCity-DayTrip.com

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