International support grows for Linden, Guyana

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International Solidarity with Linden

Posted By Alissa Trotz On July 30, 2012 @ 5:01 am In In The Diaspora | No Comments
It is now twelve days since the first of five days of community protest in Linden, when teargas and live rounds were fired into crowds of unarmed women, children and men, killing three men and injuring 20. Since then, the community has widened the scope of its demands to include justice for those murdered and wounded on July 18th, and protests in solidarity with Linden have been held not only inGeorgetown, but in the diaspora as well.

linden_protest_11.jpgOn Saturday night, a vigil attended by about 100 persons, holding placards and candles, was held in Toronto, Canada, at Queens Park, where the legislative assembly of Ontario’s provincial government is located. Several Lindeners, young and old, were among those who spoke during the open mike session. Among the points made were that when the police attacked protestors on July 18th, they were in fact disregarding the fundamental rights of Lindeners and all Guyanese, as guaranteed by the Constitution of Guyana, to freedom of assembly, association and demonstration. The crowd was reminded that Lindeners’ objection to the steep hike in electricity rates, imposed without proper and meaningful consultation with the community, also falls well within the ambit of Article 13 of Guyana’s Reform Constitution which in fact calls for participatory development: “The principal objective of the political system of the State is to establish an inclusionary democracy by providing increasing opportunities for the participation of citizens, and their organisations in the management and decision¬making processes of the State, with particular emphasis on those areas of decision¬making that directly affect their well-being.” People were urged to seek out the information and facts about the electricity rates in Linden for themselves, to understand what the issues were. So for example, when the state-owned newspaper runs letters and editorials that seem to suggest that Lindeners are a bunch of freeloaders, remember that this is a community that once provided some 90% of the world’s calcined bauxite, and think about the fact that bauxite remains one of Guyana’s largest foreign exchange earners, even though the community does not appear to reap the benefits of this. Or when you are told that the story is simply that Lindeners are refusing to pay the same rate as other ‘ordinary’ Guyanese and this is unfair, dig deeper below the surface of these soundbites.

Find out if this is what Lindeners are truly saying. Find out if Lindeners receive electricity from the same national grid as most other Guyanese. Ask about all of the bauxite related properties – including some in Georgetown – that were procured through the sweat of workers in Linden and that have since been sold off, and ask where the monies have gone, and how much of those monies have returned to the community. Ask about what happened to the power plant thatLinden once had. Standing with Linden means taking the time to properly educate ourselves on the issues. And even if you disagree, it must be an informed and not an ignorant position.

linden_protest_12.jpgA section of the London, UK, protest
At the end of the evening, a resolution was read out and unanimously approved by the gathering:
“We, Guyanese and other citizens of the Greater Toronto Area, gathered on Saturday July 28, 2012, at Queen’s Park, Toronto, at a vigil held in sympathy with the families and friends of the three dead (Shemroy Bouyea, Allan Lewis and Ron Somerset) and other victims of the shooting by members of the Guyana Police Force on July 18, 2012, at Linden, Guyana, hereby demand:
(a) that an impartial commission be appointed by the Guyana government to conduct a full and proper investigation into this callous and wanton killing of peaceful protestors as urgently as possible;
(b) the immediate removal from office of those
persons whose presence can compromise the collection and preparation of material evidence related to such an enquiry;
(c) that measures be taken within the Government, and the Police Force, to eliminate the possibility of the recurrence of such incidents;
We further state our intention to con-tinue our support for the people of Linden, and to monitor the actions of the Guyana government until this matter is justly resolved.”

Vigils and protest actions have also taken place in New York. And in London, UK, a demonstration was organized in support of Linden on July 25th, which was called by Global Women Strike, joined by Caribbean Labour Solidarity and concerned individuals.

Nicola Marcus who has been organising vigils and other support in Georgetown said: “When I saw the photographs of the demo (London) I felt as if those protesting were right here – they had all the names of the people who were murdered and those who were injured. I felt moved by that. I said to one of the other women in Red Thread – I’m sure there are many people in Guyana who don’t know all those names and look! – here are people from all over the world, in London, for whom each of those women, men and children is important. When I reported on the demo at a vigil in Buxton on Thursday to the over 1000 women, men and children there all I heard was “Wow!” – and I felt even more moved. I used that to say to the vigilers that the struggle is not only in Linden, and if people from all those places, based in London, of all races, women and men, could see that, we must see it too”.

The press release issued by the Global Women Strike (GWS) declared solidarity with Lindeners, and also connected what is happening in Guyana with the struggles of communities in Latin America and around the world, an important point that was also made by a Chilean/Mozambican woman at Saturday’s Toronto vigil. The GWS statement, titled ‘Demonstration to defend Linden, Guyana & Condemn Police Murder’ reads as follows:
A protest was held in support of the people of Linden, outside Guyana’s High Commission in London, called by Global Women’s Strike, and joined by Caribbean Labour Solidarity and concerned individuals. A lively, multi-racial crowd of women and men from 20 countries held a spirited demonstration outside Guyana’s High Commission in London on 25 July, in support of the people ofLinden. On 18 July police had opened fire on a peaceful protest, brutally killing three people and injuring 20. Lindeners protesting 800% increases in the cost of electricity to the community, had organised a five-day community shut-down of the city, including industry, and road blocks. Since the shootings, the shut-down continues, and international outrage and support from around the world is growing for Lindeners who are demanding the scrapping of the price hike, prosecution of the killers, and the resignation of the Home Affairs Minister.

It seems like this state violence against the right to protest is how the 1% plans to stop communities globally from getting our entitlements. Protests have been called in the US in solidarity with protests in Georgetown, called by Red Thread, a multi-racial grassroots women’s organisation. Whatever solidarity Linden needs we will aim to do, locally and internationally.

The London protest was called by Global Women’s Strike, Caribbean Labour Solidarity, and concerned individuals. A placard with the names of those killed and injured in Linden was central, and condolences went out to the families. Chants included: “We are all Lindeners”, “Linden Today – London Tomorrow”, “No Divide and Rule: Afro, Indo, Indigenous, all of us together,” and “Justice forLinden.”

Chhattisgarh Women’s Organisation (India) sent a message of support, and Selma James described how imperial powers had provoked divisions between races to undermine Guyana’s independence struggle. Many Guyanese Londoners responded to the call, along with Londoners from across the Caribbean – Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica; plus people from Argentina, Bolivia, Congo, Cyprus, DRC (Congo), Eritrea, India, Italy, Nigeria, Peru, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Tamil Eelam, Zimbabwe, US.

A former bauxite worker from Linden said “the area has a long history of struggle, and people won’t give up” The Tamil Women’s Organisation spoke of the tens of thousands of Tamils killed in Sri Lanka, and a large contingent from All African Women’s Group joined in enthusiastically with the chanting. One of their members compared the robbery of Africa’s resources with the theft of minerals by the same multinationals in Guyana and how many African women had fled shootings and rape by police and soldiers only to be denied protection by the British government. A US trade unionist, called for support for Linden’s general strike. He said the cheaper price of electricity in Linden was won through wage negotiations between the bauxite owners and the union. Through this massive electricity price increase, the Government and the new multi-national owners are reneging on that long-standing bargain.

A Bolivian man spoke about the struggle for resources going on all over South America, and said that the continent must act as one. An Argentinean woman spoke about police killings in the UK – 1500 people have died in police custody, including Mark Duggan, and Jean Charles de Menezes brutally shot, and Ian Tomlinson whose killer was recently acquitted of manslaughter.

She said the organizing in Linden strengthens us here. A young man called for support of a Tamil hunger strike outside Olympic stadium.

For a link to photos from the London protest, visit:
http://globalwomenstrike.net/gallery/photos-protest-support-people-linde...
For more information about the Global Women’s Strike, visit www.globalwomenstrike.net
Article printed from Stabroek News: http://www.stabroeknews.com
URL to article: http://www.stabroeknews.com/2012/features/in-the-diaspora/07/30/internat...

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