Rational solutions the way forward

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  • High tension: police and protesters clash outside the House of Assembly last December

    High tension: police and protesters clash outside the House of Assembly last December

The violent confrontation which erupted between protesters and police last December 2 at the entrance to the House of Assembly is now a sad piece of our history, but there are lessons from what could have been a truly nasty scene, for everyone, including both political groups, the police, and the community.

I don’t know anyone who could describe a parade if they are actually marching in it. In democratic countries the right to protest is considered a vital ingredient in allowing those with a different view to express themselves in a manner that does not violate basic rules of law designed to maintain civil order.

That has been a concern for authorities around the world, because some protest demonstrations are hijacked by elements who use the opportunity to behave in a manner that encourages confrontation with authorities, in order to create disorder and potential mayhem. That is a tactic used often globally.

This places an extremely heavy burden on police who are usually on the front line, and caught between trying to protect peaceful demonstrators, and at the same time deal with people determined to disrupt the proceedings.

In many countries including America, police and peaceful demonstrators have lost their lives in what was originally described as a peaceful protests, until things spiralled out of control, through elements out to project their own destructive agenda.

Despite these setbacks, the right to protest is still regarded as key for all who uphold the true principles of democracy. In exercising that right, there is the responsibility of doing so within the law.

Only in systems where dictatorial power reigns, the right to protest is denied, and even attempts to do so peacefully carries great risk.

Even though Bermuda has had its share of disturbing confrontations over the years, largely linked to a troubled social past, most Bermudians today believe that the island has become a more diverse society, even though there is still much work to be done in taking our social infrastructure to a higher level.

This is why it is hoped that even in the political arena where divisiveness remains a matter of concern, Bermudians want to see and hear leaders speaking in tones that promote better co-operation regarding issues affecting community life.

The important lesson for Bermuda arising out December 2 is that any type of protest should have someone responsible for ensuring that those participating are complying with the law, which would avoid any likely confrontation with police who do have the responsibility of upholding the law.

Unlike some countries, Bermuda police are not in the position of dealing with hostile groups on a routine basis, and that in itself will require further review to improve the best approach, which will always depend on the circumstances.

There are guidelines and rules for protests, which are a part of our democracy, and when those rules are followed, with the objective to avoid any type of clash with authorities, the door will open wider for calm rational thinking on both sides to work out a solution.

Bermuda must move in that direction, in order to keep our island growing.

It should not matter which political group one chooses to support, or which organisation one is attached to, our focus should be what is best for all of Bermuda.

We can only do this with more bridges in our island infrastructure, and less fences that prevent us from embracing a new age of doing things together. We all learn from mistakes, but that is what keeps hope alive for the future.

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Published Aug 15, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Aug 15, 2017 at 7:25 am)

Rational solutions the way forward

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