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Hayward faces court over airport protest

Jason Hayward (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Jason Hayward, the president of the Bermuda Public Services Union, has confirmed he is among protesters issued with a court summons for April 7 after demonstrating outside Parliament.

A key member of the People’s Campaign activist group that turned out on December 2, 2016, against Bills to be tabled for the airport redevelopment, Mr Hayward denounced the court action as “another effort by the Government to use the courts as a political tool to oppress those that stand up against their agenda”.

He said that the Government was setting out to “destroy any opposition to their rule”.

Mr Hayward told this newspaper that the review of police actions released on Tuesday made it “absolutely clear that the police got it wrong on the day.” Protesters that morning had prevented MPs from accessing Parliament, and shortly after 1pm they clashed with a police group that went to clear the gate on the southern edge of the grounds.

The report, which faulted both the tactics and preparation by police, acknowledged that some police had responded with pepper spray after officers were assaulted.

But Mr Hayward said that despite the “rhetoric” from Michael DeSilva, the Commissioner of Police, “no police were threatened to the extent that pepper spray was warranted” — calling its use “aggressive and irresponsible”.

“Especially the white cop who in a John Wayne style sprayed protesters as if they were nothing more than a bunch of black cockroaches,” he added, in reference to one officer at the gates whose image was widely circulated via social media.

“Someone needs to be held accountable for those actions.”

Mr Hayward said he had been summoned to Plea Court on two charges: firstly, that he “advisedly prevented entry into the House of Assembly grounds, an act calculated to interfere with the free exercise by a Minister of Finance of his duties or authority of his office as minister” — and secondly that he had “wilfully obstructed police officers while such officers were acting in execution of their duty”.

Summonses were received by several Bermuda Industrial Union members in connection with the incident.

Mr Hayward said the first charge was a misdemeanour, was liable on conviction to 12 months’ imprisonment, or up to two years if convicted on indictment, while the second charge, if found guilty, carried a summary conviction of imprisonment up to six months, a fine of $2,880, or both.

It would be the second occasion that Mr Hayward’s opposition to the airport deal has ended in court.

In 2015 he was sued for defamation by finance minister Bob Richards after decrying the proposal on the air during a news broadcast on behalf of the People’s Campaign.

The case was dropped last year after Mr Hayward apologised for the remarks.