Earlier today, my university friend and I, along with one who recently graduated decided to ditch our afternoon lectures and go to a Red Thread picket opposite the Ministry of Social Protection and show our support.
We arrived about 15 minutes late and immediately noticed the small band of women standing in the hot sun. In their hands they held placards denouncing Minister Volda Lawrence and her statements regarding the alleged child molester Winston Harding and accusations leveled against him as being a “family issue.”
The sun was no longer an issue for me and I walked over with renewed purpose and stood at their side with a placard expressing similar sentiments. Regardless, I was still in a state of disbelief over the small number of persons willing to call out wrong when they see it and whether they even understood what they would be allowing to continue if they leave transgressions unchecked.
I slowly began to realize that there were several reasons why not many people were there in protestation as I began to sense the general feelings of unease and anger from Afro-Guyanese passing us and the feelings of amusement from Indo-Guyanese and the disinterest in the others.
(1) They do not want to stand in the sun (I can get behind that);
(2) They believe that criticism against the government and its ministers is a criticism on their ‘people’
(3) They believe that we got the ‘change’ we deserved
(4) They did not grasp the importance of the Minister’s comments and what it represented.
I can understand these varying views, even if I’m not in agreement of them (except number 1). Living in a largely divisive country in which politics and race have seemingly become one, I understand why many persons who would have voted for the coalition believe people are just trying to stir up trouble for trouble’s sake. They fail to realize that while we are allowed to like our leaders and expect them to do great deeds, they should not be coddled when they have erred lest they grow into the familiar monsters we have all come to despise and fear.
Child rights and issues, I would like to believe, go far and beyond race or class and very few seem to realize how dangerous their silence on issues such as men, women and children rights can be in the future.
As the minutes went on in our picketing, our placards screaming about the injustice and insensitivity from Lawrence who now seems to be on a redemption tour despite never offering an apology or explanation, our numbers grew.
About half hour into it, a black, fully tinted vehicle pulled up to us. In it, was a man who was clearly annoyed as he surveyed us and our placards. After offering an explanation as to what we were doing there when he asked, we told him to park his car and join us as he was holding up the traffic, he said that he would not come as “they (coalition) is my people.”
We explained that they were our people too and the reason we were out there was because we want them to learn from their mistake of protecting an alleged child molester.
Scanning our faces and placards, he went on to ask, “Is who paying yall?…Is got to be the PPP paying yall to come here.”
I felt defeated as it began to dawn on me how stupid most Guyanese are and how they have allowed race and politics to cloud their judgement of what is right and wrong. The man sat in his car, eyeing us menacingly and hurling derisive statements until he was told to move or wait until the police came. He left but shortly after that, another man passing in a car, shouted out, “Yall leave the woman alone and go home.”
As the protest ended, I felt dissatisfied as I realized that not much had changed from us standing there and most likely, not much will change the next time but I know that I must continue, because victims of abuse deserve more than silence.