May Day marchers protest outside court
Hundreds of people marched through Hamilton after leading figures appeared in Supreme Court in connection with the December 2 demonstrations yesterday.
About 300 marchers rallied outside the Dame Lois Browne-Evans building, where Bermuda Industrial Union president Chris Furbert and the Reverend Nicholas Tweed of the People's Campaign were among the ten defendants facing charges earlier in the day.
Bermuda Trade Union Congress leader Jason Hayward had started the rally by telling the crowd the authorities were refusing to release the defendants, leading to chants of “Let them out” outside the court building.
Mr Furbert later clarified they were merely kept inside as a matter of protocol, with a well-placed source saying they were being processed by the court clerk after their hearings were adjourned.
During a demonstration which lasted about two hours, marchers also walked through Front Street, where businessman Rick Olson became the subject of chants in relation to his controversial Facebook post of last month. The march, organised by the BTUC to mark May Day, began at Victoria Park at noon, after the ten defendants made brief appearances at the Supreme Court arraignments session.
Mr Hayward told the crowd: “They refuse to let them out. As a result we will start the march outside the court.”
Asked for clarification on this point by The Royal Gazette, Mr Hayward said he did not know why they were being held or whether they were still inside due to protocol.
Marchers gathered outside the court building, chanting “We shall not be moved” and calling for the release of the defendants, with one member of the crowd saying: “We are not leaving until they let them out. They are just trying to rile people up.”
Defendants could be seen from inside the building, fists raised while the crowd cheered. Prominent BPSU member Linda Mienzer, who addressed the marchers in the park to say the defendants were detained, told this newspaper: “I am here as a worker, and I support all events that support workers.”
By 12.45pm, the defendants had emerged from court to loud applause. Asked by this newspaper whether they were kept inside for any reason other than protocol, Mr Furbert replied: “Protocol.”
Mr Hayward then explained to the crowd that the defendants were going to BIU headquarters, saying: “I understand it's been a stressful morning. They need a minute to regroup.”
Marchers headed to Front Street singing “No to racism” and “Solidarity for ever, our union makes us strong”. In reference to the two Front Street businesses owned by Mr Olson, they chanted: “Boycott Rick.”
After returning to Victoria Park, Mr Hayward reflected on the history of May Day, adding: “Why are our brothers and sisters before the courts this morning? The struggle is real. The OBA government is an enemy of the workers; they waged a war against workers in this country.
“The OBA have failed to address education in this country. The OBA has failed to address workforce development in this country. The OBA has failed to address the ageing population that are in need of affordable healthcare.”
Responding in a statement, OBA chairwoman Lynne Woolridge said: “Four years ago the OBA inherited an economy in shambles. Today the construction industry is thriving with developments from St George's to Dockyard. Tourism numbers are skyrocketing. Opportunities for Bermudians are opening in every sector of the economy and jobs are being created.
“Confidence in Government's fiscal management has been restored as Bermuda is on track towards a balanced budget by 2020. The result being an economic revival that benefits every Bermudian worker and their families. Not just May Day but every day.
“The OBA is focused on moving Bermuda and Bermudians forward together, not going back to the failed policies of the past.”
Mr Hayward urged the crowd to return for the next group of defendants, due to appear in court tomorrow at 2.30pm.
Police maintained a presence throughout yesterday's proceedings, with vehicles parked outside court and on adjoining roads.