Thursday, June 25th, 2015. Chrisbert Garcia Reporting: In an interview with the media in regards to the Rupert Myles case in Santa Cruz Village, Toledo District, Prime Minister Dean Barrow said that he would see to it that the people responsible were criminally charged for the “intolerable” and allegedly racist acts committed against Myles.
So said, so done, as early yesterday morning, reportedly at around 4:00 a.m, more than ten Santa Cruz Villagers along with Cristina Coc of the Maya Leaders Alliance, were arrested at their homes by police.
More than an estimated 150 people gathered in front of the Punta Gorda Magistrate Court yesterday morning and stood there all day even as the rains poured down.
Both Mayan people from the village of Santa Cruz and residents of Punta Gorda Town crowded the street as they waited to see who was considered the main culprit, Cristina Coc, being escorted by police to the Magistrate Court which is only about a 200 feet away from the police station.
With a small rag concealing half of her face, Cristina was walked over to the court at around 3:00 p.m, followed by the group of arrested villagers who were bounded by shackles on their hands and escorted in a long line by police.
Tensions grew high as the villagers and angered townspeople exchanged words, in one instance, a fight almost ensued after a villager repeatedly yelled slurs at a PG resident that was in support of Mr. Myles, saying “you come from Africa, that is our land in the villages, not yours.”
Attorney Audrey Matura Sheppard represented the Mayans in court and after about an hour in trial, she stepped out of the court room and spoke to the media while Cristina and the arrested villagers were hauled off to the police station.
Matura said that her clients were each offered bail of $4000 after she pleaded with the Magistrate to reduce the bail due to the fact that if bail is set at more than $5000, one must produce land papers and the Mayan people do not have land papers, as they live on communal land.
Matura went on to express her displease with the government by saying: “What is amazing about this, is that it shows you the might of the state. The Prime Minister said in his interview on Monday that at all costs he would make whatever authorities do whatever they have to do to bring justice and get these people. I don’t say we shouldn’t have justice, I believe there should be an investigation and the side of Mr. Myles should be heard and the side of the community should be heard. A letter issued by the Mayans to the police, BDF and NICH, shows clearly that on that day a meeting was to be held to discuss the issue and they were called out so that this may be done peacefully. They did not show up but this morning at 4:00, as though they are dealing with common criminals, they came to the village of Santa Cruz while men and women were sleeping and arrested them without allowing them to even put on shirts or shoes.”
Pablo Mis of the Mayan Leaders Alliance also spoke to the media, saying that the Mayan people will not be broken and they will stand together as a community like they have always done. When asked if the actions taken against Mr. Myles had anything to do with racism, Mis again denied the allegations and said that they were just enforcing Mayan Laws.
Many upset PG residents also forced their way in front of the news cameras and had one resounding message of desire for equality to share. Residents who spoke on camera mentioned that Mayans are allowed to live in the Garifuna community of ‘Cerro’ which is located just outside of town and live anywhere else that they please but won’t allow ‘black people’ to live in their villages.
After the Mayan crowd was dispersed from the court veranda, one thing brought comfort to the supporters of Mr. Myles who lined the front street and that one thing was that Cristina Coc and the other villagers in question were charged.
The Mayans were all charged with “Unlawful Imprisonment” among other charges and court was adjourned until July 29th, 2015.
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