Guyana: Social Media Plays Role in Linden Solidarity Protests

The protests in Linden have spawned other protests in solidarity, both in Guyana and overseas – and social media, in the form of blogs, online videos and Facebook – have been helping to spread the message.

In London, protests were held in front of the Guyana High Commission in Bayswater, which were organized by Global Women Strike and Caribbean Labour Solidarity, among other groups. Selma James (former wife of the late Trinidadian intellectual C.L.R. James), Michael Rahman, a founding member of the Working People's Alliance and Luke Daniels, President of the Caribbean Labour Solidarity and a former bauxite worker from Linden, all addressed the crowd.

Videos of August 4 Linden Solidarity Protests in front of the Guyana High Commission in London:

Chhattisgarh Women’s Organisation in India sent a message signaling their solidarity with the Linden protesters:

Chhattisgarh Women’s Organisation condemns the killing of three people and injuring of 20 people, who were protesting against increasing electricity prices, by police in Linden, Guyana on 19 July. Many women’s groups in Delhi are also opposed to these killings. We are very sad about this. People were making their own demands and they were killed by the police. We support the protest today in Georgetown called by Red Thread and others. We are having a protest in Chhattisgarh to support people in Guyana. People in India are also protesting increase in prices.

Nicola Marcus, a member of Red Thread who has been organising vigils and other support in Georgetown said:

When I saw the photographs of the demo 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.

In Guyana itself, the Occupy Guyana movement was launched at the People's Parliament at the corner of High Street and Brickdam in Georgetown on August 15th. Unlike its American counterpart, which saw fierce debates over whether it should make concrete demands, Occupy Guyana started off with a list of  immediate demands in its mission statement:

We elect to remain in this occupied free space until the following conditions are met: • The immediate dismissal of Guyana's Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee; • The laying of criminal charges against the officers responsible for the fatal shooting of Ron Somerset, Shemroy Bouyea, and Alan Lewis—unarmed citizens of Linden; • The end of any attempt to raise the electricity rates of the town of Linden. • The guarantee, at the highest level, that citizens will not without their consent be hindered in their right to peaceful assembly and association; • Full compensation to the families of the slain and to the injured citizens of Linden, as determined by legal advisors of their choice.

Occupy Guyana also laid out some longer term demands :

We, the ‘Free’ citizens of Guyana resolve to continue our peaceful struggle until a new parliament is constructed that will reflect the views of the people, addressing with urgency: • the high levels of unemployment especially among our youth; • lack of accountability of high officials; • the high levels of state violence, corruption, police brutality and general police harassment. • the continued degradation and exploitation of our rainforest and other national and natural resources; • the continuing environment of racial segregation, discrimination, and disharmony among the Guyanese people.

The initiative for Occupy Guyana came from Red Thread, a feminist grassroots social movement which began as an association of craftworkers in 1986. Red Thread felt that other Guyanese should emulate the Lindeners and be more assertive. Sherlina Nageer, also from Red Thread and one of the organizers of Occupy Guyana, wrote about her reaction to the protests:

Less than 48 hours after the massacre I attended a forum recognizing women’s unwaged work put on by the Women and Gender Equality Commission on. The welcoming remarks, the first, second, and then third speakers all delivered their messages on cue, with nary a word about Linden.   I sat there transfixed unable to believe my ears. I had expected as a show of decency, at the very least, a moment of silence for the people killed and injured in Linden. I was immediately scolded when I raised the point.

This is not a women’s issue!

Nageer concluded that there was no way the gender dimension could be ignored in this situation:

Women were shot. Women are taking care of relatives and friends who were shot. Women are camping out in the streets. Women are lying down in front of bulldozers sent to clear the roads. Women are helping to move logs to re-block the road. Women are cooking and feeding their community members and fellow protesters. Women are reporting on the goings on. Women are part of the community’s leadership, negotiating and strategizing the next steps forward.

After leaving the first People's Parliament gathering, newspaper columnist and strident government critic Freddie Kissoon was attacked as he tried to enter his vehicle (Kissoon was victim of a similar attack in 2010 when a bucket of feces was dumped on him ):

So what explanation do I have? I was asked by one media house to explain why I think it happened. Here now is what I deeply feel about the constant oppression against me – someone very high in the power establishment has an obsession with me out of their mistaken belief that I am probably the greatest threat to the Government. How do you deal with such an obsession?

Freddie Kissoon and Dr. David Hinds discuss the Linden Protests on ‘Plain Talk’

International Press Institute Deputy Director Anthony Mills was very concerned about this situation:

We are very concerned about this week’s attack on Freddie Kissoon and we urge the Guyanese government to open an immediate investigation and to bring those responsible to justice. Furthermore, officials must ensure that what appears to be a campaign of harassment against Mr. Kissoon and his family is stopped. The right to engage in critical journalism is vital to any democracy and must be respected.


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