By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party leader Philip “Brave” Davis said yesterday his party stands in solidarity with the protests across the world over the killing of George Floyd, the African American who died last week while being detained by police officers in Minnesota.
Videos of Floyd’s death made its rounds on social media early last week, showing a white police officer kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes while other officers knelt on his back.
Mr Floyd repeatedly gasped “I can’t breathe” before he died.
The incident has since sparked public outrage and protests nationwide in the US and elsewhere in recent days, with reignited calls for justice against police brutality and an end to racial discrimination.
Calling the protests a recognition that police violence against African Americans is “rarely prosecuted”, Mr Davis yesterday pledged the PLP’s support against police brutality and injustice against black people.
Local activists have said while Bahamians are rightly outraged over Mr Floyd’s killing, the spotlight must also be shone on the Bahamas’ issues with police brutality and excessive force.
Speaking during his monthly press conference at the PLP headquarters, Mr Davis said: “Many Bahamian families have a son, or daughter or nephew or cousin or grandchild who study or work in the United States. We stand in solidarity with the peaceful protestors.
“We understand how high the stakes are. We know the costs of systematic racism, the costs of justices postponed. It is not just policing that needs reform. Racial inequality remains widespread in housing, employment and education.”
Mr Davis continued: “This is true here at home as well. The wealthy and well-connected have been able to weather the storm with their lives mostly untouched. This is not the case for the large majority of Bahamian families, however - for whom these lockdowns and economic crises are catastrophic.”
Mr Davis said if the PLP is elected to office in the upcoming election, the party hopes to bridge the gap of economic inequality.
“We intend to through intervention and through our social programmes to reach and ensure that the aspirations of many Bahamians is not stifled in any way,” he told reporters yesterday.
“And we hope to be able to bring those who have to understand and appreciate that they have a role to play in ensuring that the common good requires meaning that which is good for them as well requires them to give back and to reach their hands down and pick up their brothers and sisters.”
Saying Bahamians have lost confidence in the Minnis administration, Mr Davis also called for the government to be more transparent with the Bahamian people concerning the future of the country in the aftermath of COVID-19.
“The Bahamas is reeling from the impact of COVID-19, but the government continues with its ad hoc, imbalanced and scattered approach to the re-opening of our economy,” he said.
“…The number of cases continues to rise in 20 US states. This is before the projected increase from the protests, the size which we will not know for several weeks. What the Minister of Tourism and the Prime Minister owe the Bahamian people right now is honesty about the challenge before us.”
He added: “It may be true we cannot afford to wait for a vaccine to open our borders. But it may be that in order to protect Bahamians, we need a faster, more reliable way to test people seeking in.”
During yesterday’s press conference, Mr Davis also responded to Finance Minister Peter Turnquest’s recent comments about the government’s rental assistance programme.
Last week, Mr Turnquest revealed that the government does not plan to intervene in and settle disputes between landlords and tenants who qualify for the COVID-19 rental assistance programme.
“This is still a landlord and tenant relationship,” Mr Turnquest said. “The government is not minded to get involved with it from a legal point of view.”
Saying the government is “bad at prescribing solutions”, Mr Davis told reporters: “No lie lasts forever.”
“…This government has been prone for their, (what) I call, for their propaganda and twisting of the truth and their continuing description of how they are feeling, and you just have to follow what they’re saying.
“As I was telling others this morning, they are good at describing problems…but they are very bad at giving or prescribing the solutions.”
The Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador MP was also critical of government’s continued enforcement of the COVID-19 curfew measures, saying the measures are no longer necessary now that the country has already begun re-starting its economy.
“I think Bahamians now understand what we are faced with,” he said.
“They have been cooperating, but it is more palatable for them to feel that way that they are cooperating rather than them being coerced to cooperate and if you put more emphasis on cooperating than coercing then I think we will be better able to fight this virus and pandemic.
“And so, as we reopen the economy and as we re-open the borders, I think curfew should go.”