Caribbean Community Shamefully Silent on Linden Violence

On July 18, 2012 “three men were shot dead by the police during a day of community protest” in Linden Guyana.

Guyanese activists used the Stabroek News In The Diaspora column, edited by Guyanese feminist scholar-activist, Alissa Trotz, to ask of the Caribbean community to “all stand with Linden.” They had this to say about the violence:

It is now five days since the deadly events in Linden, in which three men were shot dead by the police during a day of community protest. The last time protestors were shot at and killed by police was sixty-four years ago, when sugar workers were cut down by colonial officers acting on behalf of the sugar planters who ruled Guyana in those days.

Stabroek News also reported that:

46-year old Allan Lewis; 18 year old Ron Somerset; and 18 year old Shemroy Bouyea [were killed]. Another 20 women and men were sent to hospital nursing blunt trauma wounds and shooting injuries to the back, face, legs and chest: 34 year old Alice Shaw Barker; 47 year old Michael Roberts; 23 year old Hector Solomon; 33 year old Ulric Michael ; 56 year old Reuben Bowen; 38 year old Dexter Scotland; 52 year old Janice Burgan; 35 year old Yolanda Hinds; 45 year old Brian Charles; 26 year old Collis Duke; 35 year old Cleveland Barker; 25 year old Dwight Yaw; 39 year old Marlon Hartman; 24 year old Troy Nestor; 35 year old Jermaine Allicock; 39 year old Malim Spencer; 29 year old Shandra Lyte; 34 year old Andy Bobb Semple ; 24 year old Collin Adams; 21 year old Trelon Piggot. Two people are in critical condition. One woman was shot as she tried to rush young children to safety.

Across the Guyanese (and Caribbean) diaspora in Toronto, New York and the UK there has been a strong showing of international solidarity. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights also condemned the violence.* In the region itself, the Caribbean community has been shamefully silent.

Barbadian social activist, David Comissiong, wrote to local newspapers to appeal for regional solidarity and action. He has called on Caribbean civil society and governments to intervene in order to prevent an escalation of the violence and “racial strife,” arguing that, ” it was not surprising that the police killings were immediately interpreted in terms of race!”:

historically, Linden was the scene of the two most infamous incidents of racial violence in Guyana — the 1964 Indian bombing of the African populated “Sun Chapman” launch on the Demerara river, and the ugly and brutal retaliatory violence that members of the “African” population of Linden inflicted on their “Indian” fellow residents.

Today, media reports indicate that unrest in Linden has escalated. Five buildings have been destroyed by fire.  Reports state that “security forces have cleared Linden roads”. Residents reported that police fired teargas to disperse large numbers of persons who turned out to resist the police. Guyana Defence Force air-dropped by helicopter more than 1,000 leaflets urging residents to support the Joint Services.

For three weeks “Lindeners have used huge logs, bricks, broken bottles, burning tyres and other objects to block access to key bridges and roads. At first they had been protesting the increase in electricity tariffs from July 1 following government’s decision to cut the subsidy by GUY$1 billion.” The protests continued after three men were killed by police.

* The Guyana Government has rejected the statement made by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, calling it “biased, misconceived and premature.” Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon insisted that, “The government of Guyana respects the rights of its citizens, including the right to march and demonstrate peacefully.”

Edited to add: reports that Joint Services denies it launched morning operation at Linden (source: Gordon Moseley on facebook).

Sherlina Nageer of Red Thread contextualises the protests in terms of Linden’s 70% unemployment rate and explains why Linden (the protests & police violence) is definitely a women’s issue.  

We will be updating and editing this post as more information comes in.

The Caribbean Community must not turn its back on Linden. Time to take notice and speak out!

Please share with us any information or updates you may have in the comments.

Kick in she back door: Violence Against Women Takes Road March

Kick in she back door by veteran band Burning Flames recently won Road March in Antigua. Some bands refused to play the song because its offensive lyrics endorse anal rape of women. Nonetheless, it emerged as the most popular song of Antigua’s carnival.

Local activist group, Women Against Rape spoke out against the song saying:

We find the contents of the song unacceptable. The lyrics promote a lack of respect for women and condone the abuse of women and acts of non-consensual sexual aggression and violence against women. To put it frankly: the song encourages rape and/ or sexual violence against women and is in direct contravention of among others Article 4(Basic Documents Pertaining to Human Rights in the Inter American System).

We find the song so extremely offensive that we are calling upon the Hon. Minister Jaqui Quinn Leandro, Minister responsible for Gender Affairs and the Honorable Minster of Information and Technology, the Hon. Minister Edmond Mansoor to ensure that all steps are taken to ensure that all media houses within Antigua and Barbuda and those agencies connected with the media and carnival to immediately stop playing the song in public.
Below is a partial transcription of the lyrics:

[woman screaming]
[man mocking woman’s voice “murder murder,  ah kill he gine kill me”]

If she front door lock and you can’t get in
And she bathroom window lock
And you can’t get in
And she bedroom window lock
And you can’t get in
And she kitchen window lock
And you can’t get in

What to do?

Kick in she back door
Kick in she back door
What ah mean?
Kick um in

And she bawling murder
[more screaming]

I don’t really know bout you
But I know just what to do
When a woman batten down she house
Make up she mind to keep you out
You push your key to find it jam
And it in {something} in you hand

So the solution to get inside
Cause she lock down she house so tight
Whether rain or shine
Morning, noon or night
Is the only way to win this fight

Chorus

[more screaming: “Call the police, come of mi yard, you too damn wicked”]

Women does mek things real hard
Especially when they get mad
No matter how hard you try
No easy way to slip inside
So the solution to get inside
Cause she lock down she house so tight
Whether rain or sun
Morning, noon or night
Is the only way to win this fight.

The song conceives of heterosexual relations as an adversarial competition in which men, through the use of sexual violence, emerge as winners.  Sex with women is seen as a man’s right and therefore women’s consent to sexual relations deemed immaterial.  In fact, if you follow the song’s logic, if women refuse to consent to vaginal sex, they should be punished by being anally raped.  The song writer’s lament that “women does mek tings real hard, especially when they get mad”  suggests that women should not have the right to determine under what circumstances they will consent to sex.  It rests on an implicit assumption of a man’s right to control a woman’s body because they are in an intimate relationship.  All these beliefs need to be discussed, unpacked and refuted.  As heterosexual relationships are normalised and naturalised, often sexism, misogyny  and unequal relations of power between women and men in heterosexual relationships are made to appear normal and natural too.

Not only has the song not been banned, it’s the most popular of the season and will no doubt be exported across the soca-loving Caribbean.  Since it’s quite likely that many of us will hear it, whether we like it or not, or may very well like it, even though we don’t like the message, we might as well use it as an opening to discuss sex, gender, power and violence in heterosexual relationships.

So, let’s talk about sex. And power, pleasure and gendered expectations.

What does equitable, just and loving heterosexual sex look like? To the many, many vocal people who see absolutely nothing wrong with message in this song, who have argued that the lyrics speak of the “reality” of relationships, what would you say?