Column: Questions About Actions On Dec 2nd

January 25, 2017 | 5 Comments

[Opinion column written by Chris Famous]

“What transpired in Bermuda last Friday was disheartening to see and unacceptable. Let me be very clear, I don’t condone the violence that occurred against our citizens and was deeply troubled by what occurred.” – Premier Michael Dunkley

It has been painful to read the thousands of negative comments made against Bermudians who decided to take a stand for transparency on December 2nd 2016. OBA supporters on social media have brazenly uttered such comments as “ …they got what they deserved”

Yet nowhere along the line has any OBA MP, Senator or OBA Executive condemned these hateful and racist words.

Perhaps one of the most interesting comments has been from the Commissioner of Police [COP] himself Mr. Michael DeSilva

During a press conference on December 2nd, he stated:

“Once it was announced that the House would sit today, police initiated positive action to open a path to the House. Officers approached the protestors that were blocking access, warned them that they were committing offences, and instructed them to desist.

Immediately the crowd surged and some of the protestors assaulted the officers. Some officers deployed incapacitant spray in a proportionate response to disperse the crowd and to create a safe separation. “

More recently the Commissioner made this statement:

“As a result, a second group of officers was deployed to arrest those who continued to block the gates.”

The camera is mightier than the sword

These comments are interesting as his compressed timeline does not match the reality captured on photograph or video.

Police Officers Bermuda January 2017

In photograph 1, taken at 12:35 pm police officers in protective gear come out of a police vehicle and enter Hamilton Police Station. This clearly shows premeditated intent to deploy these officers at least 1-2 hours before they actually appeared on Parliament Street.

Female BPSU members Bermuda Januar 2017

In photograph 2, taken at 12:45, a group join the persons along Parliament Street. Does it appear as if they are violent?

IMG-20161202-WA0093

In photograph 3, we see a group of police officers commanded by Inspector Mark Clarke standing in front of a peaceful crowd.

Now here is the interesting part.

In the above video small contingent of Police, led by Inspector Mark Clarke, stand in front of the peaceful crowd. For a while they maintain their position and there is no evidence of any Police Officer being assaulted. Does the COP considers singing “We shall not be moved” as an assault on an officer.

At time line 3:10 we see the Police Officers barrel into the peaceful crowd. Not once did they take a second to say that they were there to arrest anyone.

Not once.

What is very important to note that what is most telling is that the Commissioner never mentioned that after their first line of approach failed, the Police Officers formed up and then ran from Parliament Street to Reid Street.

It is on Reid Street where officers deployed pepper spray from behind a wall whilst heavily armed police officers corralled the people, mostly women, against the southern wall of Sessions House.

Line of Questioning

Some pertinent questions must now be asked of the Commissioner:

  • 1. Why were Police Officers ordered to don protective gear after 12 pm when the small crowd was peacefully huddled in the rain?
  • 2. Where is the evidence of police being assaulted prior to the Police Support Unit officers being deployed?
  • 3. Why would Police Officers who were safely behind a wall deploy pepper spray? Was not the wall separation enough?
  • 4. According to the regulations regarding use of pepper spray the officer[s] who discharge the pepper spray are supposed to render first aid to the person[s] who have been sprayed. Why did these officers render no assistance to Bermudians, mostly women, who were pepper sprayed?

The Premier of the country called this Police action “violence against our citizens.” What exactly does the Commissioner call it?

- Chris Famous can be contacted via email at Carib_pro@yahoo.com or Twitter at @ryderz777

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In response, the Commissioner of Police Michael DeSilva said, “While we appreciate this is just an opinion piece, we would like to clarify a few things, albeit we have already answered these questions in the media.

“The police have explained the difference between peaceful protest and unlawful behaviour. Those persons who were physically blocking the gates were committing offences under the Parliament Act and the Summary Offences Act by not allowing Ministers and Members of Parliament to enter.

“This was clarified by the Centre for Justice on 3rd December. After hours of warning those persons to stop blocking the gates, the police attempted to make arrests and some officers were assaulted.

“Protective helmets were ordered as a precautionary safety measure for another group of officers who attempted to make arrests, but they were also assaulted. A number of files have been submitted to the DPP to consider criminal charges in this regard.

“We have also explained that no single order was given to deploy captor spray, and none was required. Captor spray was not used to clear people away from the gates: it was used by officers who were directly assaulted or felt threatened by some of the protestors.

“Aftercare, which involves rinsing the eyes with fresh water, was performed by police officers at the scene on several persons who were affected by the spray.

“The police appreciate the public would like to know more about the events of the 2nd December. These matters are currently under independent review by a senior UK officer, as well as being considered by the Police Complaints Authority and possibly the courts.

“In the meantime, we are developing a policing plan for the next sitting of the House of Assembly on 3rd February that will avoid a repeat of the last experience. We will share the plan publicly in good time so that anyone planning to engage in a peaceful protest on that day will not mistake any behaviour that might end up breaking the law.”

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Comments (5)

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  1. wassup says:

    I’m very grateful to Bernews for getting a response to this column and not running it alone.
    Mr Famous has written other so called opinions which have been nothing more than propaganda.
    It is good to have balance.

  2. Know it All says:

    Chris, have you made an assessment of any laws that were being broken? You seem fixated on the police response, but blind the factors surrounding Parliament that lead up to that. Police use of force matrix is pretty simple:
    1. Inform someone they are in breach of the law – video of that from early morning when Bob Richards tried entering the grounds and couldn’t.
    2. If they fail to adhere to police instructions, then issue order/warning that if they do not desist, they will be arrested – video of that when Insp Clarke is talking to the PLP leadership and Union Reps, on the front holding hands.
    3. If this fails, then police are authorised to use force, as required, to acheive the objective, usually to effect an arrest. Unfortunatley they didn’t arrest the 100 people there, but based on the events of the day, it appears the purpose was to open Parliament, not make arrests.

    I’m sure if it was OBA blocking the PLP you would be writing about why none of the protestors were arrested, and surely has to do with race… But I won’t judge based on your past columns.

  3. Micro says:

    People breaking the law were lawfully dispersed. The lawbreakers, did in fact get what they deserved, that’s not a racist comment.

  4. Realist says:

    Why is he calling out Inspector Mark Clarke only? Christopher Famous only defames to keep his miscommunication and heightened contradictions going to feed the mindset of those who need to keep the agenda open of over throwing the Government.

  5. wahoo says:

    Hah

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