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‘People want to play a role in shaping policy in their community’

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Public protest: John Rankin, then the Governor, accepted a petition against the appointment of Lee Rizzuto Jr as US Consul to Bermuda from Kristin White, of Social Justice Bermuda, in June 2020 (File photograph from Government House on Facebook)
Lynne Winfield, president of Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Bermuda Freeedom Alliance logo (image supplied)
Bermuda Advocates for Safe Technology campaigned against the rush to rollout 5G technology in Bermuda (Photograph supplied)

An absence of traditional political boundaries is often a key feature of Bermuda lobby groups.

Some representatives said that they attracted support from across society and were confident that grass roots organisations made an impact.

A spokesperson for Bermuda Advocates for Safe Technology (Bast) said: “We have members from all walks of life and all political affiliations such as teachers, healthcare professionals, businesspeople and environmentalists.

“We are happy to work with any government of the day to advocate for policy to ensure our community is aware of the risks and protected from overexposure to wireless radiation.

“Politicians have many issues to address and community groups can help by sharing information and resources to bring focus to a particular issue of concern to the community.”

The spokesperson added: “Bast thinks any grass roots community advocacy can be important in transforming community policy.

“Globally, people want to play a role in shaping policy in their community and are no longer happy to just be governed from the top down, wanting more local solutions and collaboration.

“Community advocacy groups ensure the community voice is put forward and heard.”

The spokesperson said: “Although we may be best known for our work on 5G, there are many other issues we are working on including sensible cell antennae placement with minimum setbacks from homes and schools, best practices for safe technology in schools and educating parents and students on how to use devices safely.”

Social Justice Bermuda was described on its Facebook page as “a non-hierarchical collective of Bermudians”.

It added: “We are an advocacy group with no political affiliation.”

The group’s interests included criminal justice, economic equity, healthcare and education reform.

An SJB representative said: “SJB will not become a new political party.

“We advocate and lobby for our platform with the hope that it influences politicians to incorporate more social justice principles into their work.”

SJB said that activism groups had “always had an incredible influence on politics”.

The representative added: “We believe that we and other engaged citizens can have a transformative impact.”

Janine Richardson, a Bermuda Freedom Alliance delegate, said that the grass roots organisation “spontaneously came to fruition” in response to emergency measures implemented by the Government.

She added: “Created to become a charter of World Freedom Alliance, BFA continues to fight, support, share and uphold our fundamental inalienable freedoms and rights.”

Ms Richardson said: “We stand as a team of smaller groups of diverse, like-minded, sovereign, living people who resist colonial conditioning and governmental authoritarian control.

“We aim to unite in solidarity with the core principle of Ubuntu – I am because we are – with truth and love as our guiding principles.”

She explained that BFA was formed as a non-profit, non-political organisation.

Ms Richardson said: “Already, local leaders have welcomed BFA for policy discussion.

“We now hear local politicians and union members speaking up against the emergency authorised measures and resulting policies.

“Because human rights are the rule of law, advocacy groups are in key positions to affect the law and politics.

“To what extent an organisation such as this can affect political policy, we are in the process of finding out.”

She added that residents “from all walks of life” had supported BFA since its inception.

Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda first formed 23 years ago and was registered as a charity by 2006, working as a volunteer, antiracism advocacy group.

Lynne Winfield, its president, said that “race defines every aspect of Bermuda society” and explained why the organisation operated outside of party politics.

She said: “We understood early on that to accept funding from either political party would immediately be seen as ‘aligning’ the group with one or the other.

“To that end a decision was made very early on not to seek funding from government.

“When incidences arise that are political, we look to our mission statement to guide us in our response.

“Needless to say, being an advocacy group, we have managed to make statements that all political parties at one point or another have disagreed with.”

She explained that Curb’s initial goal was to “sustain the conversation on race”.

Ms Winfield said: “We felt it important to normalise the conversation on race and we believe our constant efforts over the years have ensured the discussion on racial justice stays forefront in the community.”

She added: “There is no doubt that there has been fierce denial in the White community for hundreds of years.

“There are those that are angry that the past is being raised, they cannot make the connection between those 355 years of oppression and current-day inequities.

“There are others who are for the first time reflecting on these issues, negotiating the challenges that are raised by this self-reflection.

“Mixed up in this is the beginning of awareness and reality of what happened and the legacies it has left us all with, and this causes sadness.

“Everyone is at a different place negotiating this journey.”

She said that Curb’s 2020 Racial Justice Platform included almost 50 elements that the charity believed could start to tackle inequity.

Ms Winfield added: “We note that in one speech the Premier referred to having fulfilled a number of the items on the CURB RJP list.”

The organisation’s work has included advocacy related to Tucker’s Town as well as against the Criminal Code’s Section 315F, which allowed police to stop and search without probable cause.

Curb has also spoken out on gaming, immigration, a living wage and criminal law reform, among other issues.

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Published July 07, 2021 at 7:49 am (Updated July 07, 2021 at 7:49 am)

‘People want to play a role in shaping policy in their community’

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