Thursday, Apr 25, 2019
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U.S. should ‘warn’ black Bahamians

American attorneys for a Bahamian man attacked in Pembroke Pines, Florida, last month, are castigating their own government over its advisories to U.S. citizens traveling to The Bahamas, urging the U.S. to “take accountability for what happens to black and brown people on our soil”.

On March 16, Harold Williams, 56, entered Pines Market to use the restroom and as he walked toward the rear of the business, one of the employees allegedly struck him in the cheek with an eight to 10-inch kitchen knife.

Jasmine Rand and Benjamin Crump, both civil rights attorneys best known for their representation of the families of slain African-American teenagers Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, also represent Williams.

They, along with Williams, held a press conference in New Providence to give updates on the matter on Saturday.

While no official has classified the incident as a hate crime, Williams’ attorneys believe the attack was racially motivated.

A 24-year-old named Fawaz Hassan has been charged with first degree aggravated battery with a deadly weapon resulting in permanent bodily disfigurement.

“There’s one more important issue that we wanted to address as a legal team today and that’s the issue that the United States government recently issued a travel warning about traveling to Nassau, Bahamas,” Rand said.

“When the United States government, such a powerful government, issues travel warnings like that, it’s not lost on us as civil rights attorneys that that can severely impact other nations’ economies.

“We believe that if the United States is going to continue to issue those types of travel warnings that can really impact the economies of other nations, that they have a responsibility and a duty to acknowledge the danger posed to black and brown lives traveling to the United States.

“We see what has happened to Mr. Williams happening time and time again to black and brown people in our nation.

“So if we are going to issue travel warnings about our citizens traveling to other nations, we need to issue those same warnings to foreign nationals that if you have black or brown skin, you are in danger in our country.

“You’re in danger of being shot in a church, you’re in danger of being shot in a movie theatre, you’re in danger of being shot in a marathon, you’re in danger of being stabbed in the face, simply trying to use the bathroom.”

 In February, the U.S. Department of State reissued a level two travel advisory warning U.S. citizens to “exercise increased caution” when visiting The Bahamas due to crime.

The U.S. issued a similar advisory in January 2018.

Although overall crime in The Bahamas decreased by eight percent in 2018 compared to 2017, the U.S.  advised that this latest warning was reissued after periodic review with updates to information on crime.

Following Williams’ attack, Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Henfield said that the incident was not a cause for alarm that would prompt the Bahamian government to issue a travel advisory.

“The government of The Bahamas will always act in the best interest of Bahamians in their security and in their economy,” Henfield said.

“If we feel that Bahamians are threatened by any country that they travel to, an advisory will come forward. In this instance, we don’t feel so.”

Rand and Crump offered apologies to Williams for what happened to him.

“Attorney Crump and I recognize, and we came here to be with the Bahamian people and in your home and in your nation, first and foremost to apologize for what happened to Mr. Williams on our soil,” Rand said.

“This never should have happened to Mr. Williams. Senseless violence in America has to stop.

“Our nation has to take responsibility and accountability because our nation fails to take accountability for what happens to black and brown people on our soil.

“We are here with you today to stand for you the Bahamian people, to stand for Mr. Williams and to fight for his rights just as hard as we fought for the rights of people like Trayvon Martin and people like Michael Brown, because this senseless violence has no place in America, and it has no place in our legal system and we will do everything that we can to ensure that Mr. Williams receive justice on our soil.”

Sloan Smith

Staff Reporter at The Nassau Guardian
Sloan covers national news for The Nassau Guardian. Sloan officially joined the news team in September 2016 but interned at The Nassau Guardian while studying journalism at the University of The Bahamas.
Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications

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