Exclusive: Groups have been told they cannot protest as the country moves from realm to republic
Organisers of a slavery reparations protest against Prince Charles in Barbados say they have been forced to cancel it by the country’s government, The Independent has learned.
Campaigners with the Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration and the 13th June 1980 group had planned to stage a protest in the capital Bridgetown on Monday, hours before the prince made a speech marking the country’s conversion to a republic.
However, the government has not given the event permission, despite allowing a number of officially-organised gatherings.
“We see this lack of approval as an encroachment on our democratic freedoms,” a spokesperson for the event said.
The decision stems from concerns among Barbados government ministers about negative coverage during the country’s transition from realm to republic, The Independent understands.
The transatlantic slave trade resulted in millions of Black people being snatched from their Africa and forced into brutal labour in the name of King and country.
Following its abolition in1833, former slavers, including relatives of the royals, were compensated while those who were enslaved and their families received nothing.
The Prince of Wales will highlight the shared goals and enduring bonds between Barbados and the UK during a ceremony where the Caribbean country will formally cut ties with the British monarchy.
He will also tell the nation it is “important” for him to attend the event to “reaffirm those things which do not change” as the major constitutional shift takes place.
The future king of England will also receive the Freedom of Barbados, awarded for extraordinary service to the country, the Caribbean diaspora or to humanity at large.
Meanwhile, a collective worried about the transition to republic status was told by police officers that a protest walk could not go ahead.
Twenty-five people from Barbados Concerned Citizens stood in Heroes Square where they were not permitted to move forward.
“The average person believes that Barbados should not be holding onto the colonial strings; they want to be excited about it but the way the republic was done has left Barbados a little muted,” co-organiser Marcia Weekes told The Independent during a roundtable discussion on Monday.
“A lot of us don’t understand why the prince is here if we’re really pulling away from the colonial power. What role are they playing here? Why haven’t we heard any talk about reparations despite the PM creating a whole arm in the government to deal with that issue.”
Issues such as police brutality and impact of Covid-19 have fuelled a persistent fear that Black people around Barbados will continue to fare badly in contrast to the white ruling minority and tourists who dip in and out of the island, others members of Barbados Concerned Citizens said.
“Struggles for Black people have always sustained before there was a pandemic or republic transition if those disappear tomorrow, we still have the issues with our youth, our young men getting locked away and sent to prison, domestic violence and impoverished communities. That doesn’t change and it’s even worse for us now,” Emmanuel Beryllia said.
While a referendum on removing the Queen as head of state was not required by law, it was previously promised by Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley but not carried out, Mrs Weekes said, which has “left a bitter taste in Barbadians’ mouths” amid questions around what a republic will look like and what it means.
Roy, a member of Barbados Concerned Citizens, told The Independent: “It wasn’t put out to the public for any of the people to say whether we want to be a republic or not. So, it’s not even a real republic; it’s just the people who are in Government who decide that this is what they want on the 55th anniversary of independence. It was just announced one day.
Moreover, worried Bajans also question the timing.
“You might come into Barbados and it looks nice and rosy … but it’s very expensive,” Mrs Weekes sighed.
“Food is hard to buy here, basic things, so economically the question is ‘Is this the right timing, what is the haste, why during Covid, can’t we look after our basic needs first?’ Some of us don’t have running water.”
At the opening last week of Golden Square Freedom Park, a national communal space in Bridgetown, prime minister Mottley said: “Some ask ‘why a republic in the middle of a pandemic?’ Because, regardless of the challenges that face us, we shall remain focused on achieving what we must as one of the smallest nations in the world – but one of the most capable nations of this global community.”