Blame has been cast on the president of the Public Service Union, Elroy Boucher, who is said to have been the one to call the police after an individual sat in the road during Thursday’s protest.
“What we saw this morning was one person attempting to lie down in the road to block it. Our people tried to move that person, get them to move and he was resistant. There wasn’t a police presence. I decided to call the police commissioner to try and get that person out of the road because we gave our commitment as a Union that the road would not be blocked,” Boucher told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday afternoon.
Unlike those held in previous times, the demonstration yesterday lacked several familiar elements – silver barricades lining either side of the street in front of the Vegetable Market and a police presence.
While some have shown contempt for these elements in past protests, the trade union president said he anticipated those two things would have been present at this week’s activity.
“I had hoped that two things would’ve happened: one, the police would’ve put up a barricade to ensure that all these vehicles are not here to give space because that would’ve helped in the
road not being blocked if there are a lot of people here and two; there would’ve been a police presence. Why is police presence necessary,? Boucher asked.
“ To help protect the demonstrators and to avoid any incident that is going to lead to a demonstration being chaotic and violent,” he explained.
The PSU president said it is imperative that Vincentians commit themselves to peaceful demonstrations as “it doesn’t have to be violent for us to get the message out”.
He pointed out that “Nelson Mandela never engaged in a worrisome demonstration. It was peaceful. Gandhi, It was peaceful. I don’t know why we think, or some people come here and think that they have to be violent. There’s no need for that. The important thing is to be here in your numbers demonstrating, come in solidarity with the issues because these issues are issues affecting the entire nation.”
A letter dated September 8 from the Commissioner of Police granting the union’s executive and members approval to hold a peaceful demonstration in front of the vegetable market states in part that “The free flow of traffic must be maintained at all times. And, the behavior of the demonstrators must be in such a way that good order and public safety is maintained”.
Boucher was captured
on video during the protest stating that he had called the commissioner asking that officers be sent to help maintain order.
The union’s protest yesterday was meant to draw attention to the its dissatisfaction with an amendment to the Public Health Act, which was passed in Parliament on August 6 without opposition support.
The Union’s stance on the matter is that people’s rights and fundamental freedoms have been infringed by the change, which makes it a requirement for essential workers either to be vaccinated or undergo regular testing for COVID19 at their own expense.
It is the PSU’s hope that it can either be repealed or have rules in order to ensure definitively that mandatory vaccination will not be implemented in any instance.