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.

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