Matura-Shepherd defends BML protesters

By Alexis R. Milan Staff Reporter

Belize City,
Tues.July 5th, 2014
Fofty-four employees of Belize Maintenance Limited have been charged for taking part in an unlawful public gathering, according to attorney for the BML protesters, Audrey Matura-Shepherd.

According to Shepherd the charge is simple enough to have been resolved in a single day, but BML workers are being frustrated by the system.

Rather than charging all the accused on a single charge sheet, the police department prepared individual sheets, and as a result half the employees were arraigned on Monday and the other half on Tuesday.

Shepherd said that the prolonging of the process caused the employees, many of whom are in dire need of their jobs, to miss work. The BML workers waited in front of the Supreme Court to be called up and arraigned, one at a time.
BML employees were arrested, charged and released from the Queen Street Police Station one-by-one late Monday evening according to Shepherd.

Shepherd said that initially the protesters were charged with littering, a minor offence which would normally warrant a ticket, but ,she explained, because they wanted to detain and process them the police decided to charge them for an illegal gathering.

Shepherd declared that police should not have brought the protesters to the station for littering. The BML employees, she said, were disappointed, but in good spirits even though they were arrested and detained.

Some of the locked up employees became sick in the holding cell due to the heat and overcrowding, Shepherd explained.
“Holding them is a way of breaking their spirit,” she said.

She indicated that many of the employees would need a person with a job-letter to sign bail for them but many of the BML workers are the sole breadwinners of their households with no one to bail them.

Shepherd added that the arrested menwere also being profiled, which is a process where detained persons are thoroughly questioned, finger printed and photographed.
Shepherd declared the detention an injustice and said that if they workers were not poor they would not be in the position they found themselves in. She added that the Mayor and the government should be considerate about the BML employees.

Shepherd also commented on Belize Times’ Albert Vaughan being arrested and charged with loitering and said that it was a dangerous precedent being established. Vaughan was present during the protest, covering the incident, and was arrested along with the BML workers.

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