Protestors storm Bay St.
Hundreds of protestors fought with police on Bay Street yesterday during a demonstration against the sale of a majority stake in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company(BTC) to Cable and Wireless Communications(CWC).
A series of clashes occurred as the demonstrators forcefully removed barricades the police had set up to block them from entering Parliament Square.
The downtown drama intensified as Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham made his mid-year budget statement in the House of Assembly.
Police officers had to form a human chain to keep the people from crossing to the House of Assembly, where the doors were locked to prevent disruptions.
Upstairs, opposition MPs complained about being denied access in and outside the House.
The police estimated that between 700 and 800 demonstrators turned out.
The rowdy group shouted for Ingraham to resign his post for pressing ahead with the sale.
The protestors, many of whom were clad in political attire, carried placards slamming the government for the proposed sale and calling on CWC to pull out of the deal.
Protestors who participated in a march, which was organized by the Committee to Save BTC for Bahamians, left Clifford Park shortly after 9 a.m. and about 20 minutes later arrived on Bay Street where police officers barred a truck loaded with a sound system from proceeding to Rawson Square.
Not deterred, the demonstrators, singing”We Shall Overcome”, continued on their trek peacefully, but when they neared Parliament barricades blocked their way.
The angry demonstrators pushed through the barricades, clashing with police officers as they made their way to Parliament Square.
Similar clashes occurred during a demonstration in early December.
“No justice, no peace,”protestors shouted angrily yesterday.
Additional police officers were called to the city center as tempers flared.
Ingraham was escorted to the House of Assembly from the Bank Lane area under heavy police guard as the protestors called for his resignation.
The prime minister normally exits his car at the entrance of Parliament Square.
For several hours, demonstrators voiced their displeasure with the deal.
The protestors included ordinary Bahamians, trade unionists and political operatives.
Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union(BCPOU)President Bernard Evans said the move to stop the sale has gone national and is not just a union fight.
“It’s bigger than BTC and any union,”Evans said.”This is a Bahamian fight.”
Golden Gates MP and former president of the BCPOU Shane Gibson called for Cable and Wireless to pull out of the deal.
He said CWC should know by now the feelings of the Bahamian people and the sensible thing to do is to walk away from the sale.
Chief Superintendent of Police Emerick Seymour said other than one or two skirmishes everything went reasonably well.
“We were able to hold them back once they started their protest of pushing the barricades. We had sufficient officers in the Bay Street area to quell any possible uprising,”said Seymour.
Police in riot gear beat back protestors several times.
The demonstrators warned that this deal would cause the downfall of the government in the upcoming election.
Charmaine Farrington-Austin, one of the protestors, called on the government to reconsider the deal. She said her forefathers fought hard to bring the country to where it is today and the government should not give away the birthright of Bahamians.
“I want to ensure that people like my daughter Asia and others have an opportunity in The Bahamas because it is all about Bahamians first. It is not a PLP or a FNM issue,”she said.
“It is a national issue and every right-thinking Bahamian ought to be out in this square. We know that people are afraid to lose their jobs but there are other ways we can protest. We must protest if they don’t listen to us at the polls because that is where it really counts,”she stated.