Sunday, Dec 15, 2019
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The politics of marching

The organizers of We March Bahamas still plan to lead a march to downtown Nassau on January 10 despite the Cabinet Office denying their request to occupy Rawson and Parliament squares as they did on November 25.

In a letter issued to the group’s main organizer, Ranard Henfield, on Wednesday, the Cabinet Office said the march conflicts with another event. Henfield shared the letter on Facebook, saying, “Never fear an administration and their tactics!

“[This happened] after several weeks of going back and forth in person, by letters and by phone despite the dates being available when we formally requested the square four weeks ago.

“They finally respond with this after [Progressive Liberal Party Chairman Bradley Roberts] announced that he and the PLP are organizing a march which would rival ours and then Cabinet’s announcement to move the (majority rule) holiday.

“We march and we occupy whatever they decide to do in the squares.”

John Bostwick, another organizer, said participants will march around the area if they have to.

Henfield thinks the decision to deny his group access to the squares comes after Roberts announced the PLP’s plan to march in celebration of the 50th anniversary of majority rule.

We March is calling for the government to set a date for the general election; to show specifically where the $800 million-plus in revenue from value-added tax has been spent; to cancel negotiations with the Chinese for an agri-fisheries initiative in Andros; and to issue Crown land grants to bona fide farmers, among other demands.

There were between 1,000 and 1,500 people on the November march. Hundreds of others came downtown at different parts of the day as the group occupied the squares.

We March is to be commended for attempting to revive the activist spirit in The Bahamas. The country is poorly governed. And while Bahamians vote in large numbers, we of late have been unwilling to demonstrate on the streets in large numbers. The November march was not massive, but it was a good showing for a first effort by the group.

The issue of whether or not authorities allow We March to proceed through or to occupy Bay Street should not be a major concern to its organizers. If others have requested the area and been granted approval, We March should choose another route. What’s wrong with marching to Fort Charlotte? Or Arawak Cay? Or to Montagu Beach?

The point of the march and demonstration is to bring Bahamians together to voice dissent in a peaceful manner. This can be done at many places. The organizers should not obsess over downtown.

We again wish We March well. We hope Bahamians turn out to agitate for better governance. The ruling Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) will have an impressive show of force too on Majority Rule Day. The party wants to show it is still the group most likely to win the election.

While The Bahamas has many problems – such as a faltering economy, high crime rates and poor education standards – it also has a vibrant democracy. That democracy will be on display with rival marches on January 10. It will be on display in the run-up to the general election during the campaign. It will be on display on election day.

Always remember that you the Bahamian people determine your government. Get involved. Stay involved. Register. Vote. Hold who wins to account.

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