Community Gathers For ‘Walk Through History’

May 6, 2024 | 0 Comments

A group of approximately 40 people, including members of the Bermuda Trade Union Congress [BTUC], Somersfield Academy students, and event coordinator Glenn Fubler gathered at Victoria Park on Wednesday, May 1 for the Walk Through History event.

A spokesperson said, “The Walk Through History, held on Wednesday, May 1st, began at noon at Victoria Park, with about 40 people joining. Included were a dozen or so executive members of the Bermuda Trade Union Congress – all the unions – who stood out in their bright red shirts. Kevin Grant, the outgoing Secretary General of the BTUC, pointed out that the colour signified solidarity, the global theme for International Workers Day.

Walk Through History Event Bermuda May 1 2024

“A dozen or so Somersfield Academy students added to the gathering’s diversity, which was welcomed by event coordinator Glenn Fubler. He noted that the theme ‘Always Learning’ encouraged participants to access lessons from the iconic 1981 General Strike to benefit current generations. The goal included honouring the three Bermudians, whose out-of-the-box contribution during times of challenge, were key in peaceful resolution that took place during that unprecedented crisis.

“In his opening; Glenn summarised the series of events that unfolded in April 1981.

  1. Protracted negotiations between BIU Hospital and Government employees and the Government; a strike began for the 1,200 members on April 11, 1981.
  2. The Bermuda Workers Socialist Party organized the Strikers’ Family Support Committee with Canon Thomas Nesbitt and Rev Larry Lowe as Co-Chairmen.
  3. On April 27th, a sympathy picket at the airport, in solidarity with strikers, quickly snowballed.
  4. Subsequently, the Regiment and Reserve Police were called out as tensions escalated. Nesbitt and Lowe hosted lunchtime peace vigils at St Paul AME.
  5. On April 30th, teachers decided against staging a one-day solidarity strike on May 1st.
  6. On May 1st, a few activists – including Glenn – seeking to pivot to a peace procession in Hamilton, found success when the BIU’s BTC Division, led by Victor, dropped tools. The 200 workers first reflected on a court injunction served to them, in Victoria Park, and then marched to Union Square. There, Glenn and Victor collaborated with members and an unauthorized procession began, guided by Police Sergeant Campbell Simons.

“Glenn noted that May 1st has been designated International Workers Day since the late 1800s, when workers demonstrating for the work day to be limited to eight hours were shot and killed by police in Chicago.”

Kevin Grant said, “This is why you see us here today – in solidarity – representing the 8,000 BTUC members; a tradition we’ve maintained for a decade.”

Walk Through History Event Bermuda May 1 2024 2

Michael Nisbett – son of the late Canon – said, “I appreciate the theme ‘Always Learning.’ I’m reminded of an old saying: right is right. Another saying is: everyone is entitled to an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. An additional point made is, for those who were not on the frontline of this effort – including current generations – you are all standing on the shoulders of those who took a stand in 1981.”

The spokesperson said, “Kevin Grant offered kudos to Michael Nisbett for his comments.

“When the walk commenced, it proceeded through Dundonald Street to Union Square, where a brief description was given on how the ’81 peace procession began with Sgt Campbell Simons ‘accidently’ leading 200 campaigners over to King Street and then down to Front Street. The point was reinforced that this Police Officer was not concerned about authorization for the procession, but acted appropriately in the circumstances.

“After a nutshell account on the legacy of the BIU, the walk proceeded past the Lodge across from People’s Pharmacy, hearing how Mark Twain had made his only Bermuda performance there in 1905. The role of St Paul AME as a platform for community solidarity and promoting peace was highlighted, before walkers heard how Alexandrina Hall – UDP’s home – hosted the first meeting of the Bermuda Workers’ Association in 1944.

“Across from the Cenotaph, walkers heard how the former Customs ‘Long Room’ had served as the venue for a special night, hearing from the then Chief Justice to consider an injunction against the U.S. Ship Enterprise, whereby 73 enslaved Americans were liberated in February 1835.

“On the corner of Front and Queen Streets, walkers heard how in September 1959, BIU Dockworkers became embroiled in a conflict with bosses which nearly became violent, but which was eventually peacefully resolved with the help of six or so residents.

“Flying Colours was pointed out as the venue from which a copier was secretly purchased for the progressive group by two Canadian teachers, friends of Bermudian teacher, the late Betty Kawaley.

“The walk concluded at Freedom Square, where scores of ordinary people had rallied several nights, 65 years ago, in support of the successful Theatre Boycott.”

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