A time to put common sense first

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  • Police and protesters clash outside the House of Assembly on December 2 (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

    Police and protesters clash outside the House of Assembly on December 2 (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Bermuda is in no position to be swirling in a pool of emotional heated exchanges purely based on how people with different views feel about what happened on December 2 last year, when mayhem erupted outside the House of Parliament between protesters opposed to the airport redevelopment project and the police.

Protest demonstrations should always be an intricate part of democracy, since it provides objectors with a louder voice for those in authority to consider, in dealing with certain situations. There are times when the people could be right in expressing concerns, but there are also times when governments could be right. Any gap between clearly having all the facts understood opens the door for a wide range of perceptions.

In the political arena, perceptions can lead to opposing camps digging in to a hardened position. This is done purely to maintain support for whichever group they pledge allegiance to, even without questioning whether something may need further examination before jumping to conclusions. This is one of the harsh realities in handling matters where people can be so entrenched on both sides that there is hardly space for cool thinking and common sense to enter the picture.

I recently had the opportunity to calmly discuss the December 2 incident with a senior citizen who had sufficient decades under his belt to express an opinion without looking to simply place blame on who did what and to whom when things went terribly wrong on that day in front of Parliament.

The person I spoke with felt there was a degree of wrong on both sides. While he did not support the blocking of the entrance to Parliament, he was not comfortable with what he felt was a misreading of the mood of protesters, with some openly not willing to comply with police directives when the entrance to Parliament was blocked. This senior son of the soil felt there was a leadership issue on both sides, and that lessons hopefully were learnt to avoid the violent confrontation that resulted in the use of pepper spray as police tried to regain control.

It would seem both sides in the pepper-spray incident should pause a little and reflect on precisely what transpired at the scene that caused police to deploy the incapacitant that is commonly used around the world when demonstrations turn violent. Of course, there are countries where police activate stronger measures against a hostile crowd without regard for who is injured or worse.

Bermuda is not one of those countries. We should be capable of resolving issues when common sense is allowed to override political differences.

An important factor coming out of that unfortunate incident where protesters and police were hurt is that our leaders need to be bold enough to admit that errors of judgment occurred on both sides, and that in moving forward ways must be found to exercise democratic rights in a manner that does not infringe on the rights of others. Protesters have the right to peacefully demonstrate, and the police have the right to ensure that such activities are within the law. That is their responsibility.

Everyone knows that laws are designed to protect the people, and that includes those who have little or no interest in supporting either side in whatever is being contested. It is crucial that all our leaders fully understand that anger and threatening comments do little to bridge the gap between opposing groups, no matter the issue.

The danger here also is that our young people may think disobeying laws of the land is no big deal. That should never be encouraged because if sound, good principles are not upheld and protected, the next generation could face even bigger challenges than those of today.

If Bermuda is the special place we all want to feel proud about, it is certainly time to put common sense ahead of engaging in divisiveness on a scale that could harm efforts to build our island community in a way that will benefit all. Everyone who really cares about Bermuda should make that a priority as we collectively try to move forward.

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Published Apr 3, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Apr 3, 2017 at 7:04 am)

A time to put common sense first

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