I received the email below while I was away in Guyana, attending a regional cultural meeting and hearing about Guyana's difficulties with crime and civil liberties. As I read it, I found myself thinking Why am I worrying about Guyana? We have problems with civil liberties right here.And we don't talk about them.The email is in fact a press release put out by the environmental community group Millar's Creek Preservation Group, which had the fundraiser they were holding at the Millar's Creek community park raided by police, who proceeded to terrorize the patrons at the fundraiser and the organizers for several hours during the night.I'm not at all sure what the impetus for the raid was. There was an element of xenophobia in it, certainly. Worse, it was a xenophobia which was desperately misdirected. Perhaps not worse. As Lynn Sweeting writes,
Even if that event was packed to the rafters with illegals, a lawful, decent, humane immigration and police operation CANNOT BEGIN WITH MASKED GUNMAN FIRING SHOTS.
We are all in trouble when we cannot any longer tell the difference between the criminals and the police. The party-goers at the Millar’s Creek fundraiser know the horror of this first hand. All of them, Mr. McKenzie told me, are deeply traumatized, especially those legal and documented persons who were still locked up at the time of this conversation. Mr. McKenzie is asking: Who is responsible for the terror and trauma caused to these innocent people?
Here are a couple of excerpts from the press release. The entire release is below the fold.
Thinking a robbery was taking place I, along with everyone else darted for cover. Some people headed across the creek where we were confronted by several men in masks who pointed guns at us and told us to get down. At this stage I was petrified and feared for my life. When one of the masked men proceeded to place hand-cuffs on me- I realized that these individuals might be law enforcement officers. The men started to drag me and others through the mangroves towards the dirt road on the other side of the creek. I started to ask for some identification and questioned the officers as to why the park was being invaded. I was told by one of the masked men to shut the F---- up or risk getting shot in my head. I immediately complied as these men did not display badge numbers or any other identifying signs.
After all the officers had left the scene I began to take an assessment of the past night’s operation. I found out that some of my workers who had work permits had been taken to the detention centre. The persons who were responsible for collecting money at the gate stated that the envelope containing the money was taken by officers. The person who was operating the bar explained that when he was told to lie down, a junior officer attempted to take about two-thousand dollars from his pocket. A senior officer instructed the officer to put the money back without any warnings or disciplinary action levied against this officer. Several cell phones had been tossed into the creek. Someone had his passport torn. Some patrons had been walked on and gun butted by unidentified officers. The most amazing thing I found out that some of the officers had consumed most of the food and drinks that were on sale at this event.
More below.Millar’s Creek Preservation GroupP.O. Box CB-12254Nassau, BahamasPh: (242) 362-1366 / (242) 454-8411PRESS RELEASEEmail: firstname.lastname@example.orgThe Millar’s Creek Preservation Group is a registered non-profit NPO that is overseen by residents of Golden Isles and friends of our natural environment. The group’s mission is to clean and restore Millar’s Creek and oversee the daily operations of Millar’s Creek Recreation Park which is located off Bacardi Road.The Banana Tree Café is located on Millar’s Creek and is operated by our members and is sometimes used as an entity to generate funds for our project and as a welcome centre for our guests. This club has the following licenses to operate; Proprietary Club, General Liquor License, Restaurant License and a Music and Dance License.On Saturday 19 April 2008 we contracted the band “All Stars” to perform at a fund raising event which attracted almost 300 patrons. We charged $10 at the gate for gentlemen and $5 for ladies. As a security measure we secured the services of three security personnel, one stationed at the gate to search guests as they entered the park and two others to patrol throughout the performance.The event started at 9:30 p.m and proceeded without incident until shortly before midnight when our function was disrupted by gunshots coming from the gate area. Thinking a robbery was taking place I, along with everyone else darted for cover. Some people headed across the creek where we were confronted by several men in masks who pointed guns at us and told us to get down. At this stage I was petrified and feared for my life. When one of the masked men proceeded to place hand-cuffs on me- I realized that these individuals might be law enforcement officers. The men started to drag me and others through the mangroves towards the dirt road on the other side of the creek. I started to ask for some identification and questioned the officers as to why the park was being invaded. I was told by one of the masked men to shut the F---- up or risk getting shot in my head. I immediately complied as these men did not display badge numbers or any other identifying signs.On the other side of the creek I was taken to an area where there were about 50 uniformed men and women in dark clothing, some of whom were unmasked. None of the individuals wore a visible identification number. A man, who I presumed was the person in charge, started to do a role call with all the other uniformed individuals. A middle aged Haitian national was also taken to this area at the same time. We were both terrorized and asked our names and nationality. I identified myself and advised the gentleman who gave orders that I was one of persons in charge of organizing the event. I again questioned why the park was being targeted. He cautioned me to shut up and answer the questions, and once again I complied. The officer seemed fixed on pressing me to see if I was Haitian or Bahamian. The other gentleman was also being questioned about his nationality. I saw his state of shock as he tried to respond to questions fired at him from several of the uniformed men. After finding out the individual was a Haitian national, one of the masked men proceeded to point a gun at this individual and threatened that if he did not have “papers” he was gonna “Muori” which means die in Creole. The person who seemed to be in charge, then started to ask me what kind of illegal operation I was running. I responded that our organization was legitimate and that this event was our first big fund raiser for the year as we had just fully completed our café and welcome centre. A lady in uniform interrupted that if our business was legal why where we catering to “these kind a people” I assume she meant Haitians. I told her that our group does not discriminate against any individuals and that we were aware that many Bahamians and Haitians would be attracted to a popular band such as the band we had hired. She then asked “ how y’all could let in illegals to y’all club then?.When I asked the masked men who held me if it was necessary for the handcuffs to be so tight, he told me to shut up and started to rough me up some more, pointing a gun at my head. A younger officer who was not masked came to me and asked me if I remembered him. I told him that I did not. He asked me if I used to be a teacher I replied yes. He then started to rough me up and ask me why I had lied about my name. I told him that I had my driver’s license in my pocket that could identify me. The Haitian man and I were told to sit down. I became even more fearful for my safety when I heard the uniformed men started to whisper to each other. The commanding officer started to use scare tactics by asking one of the guys if he had more rounds in his gun. I thought for sure I was going face an ‘accidental’ death so that I could not be a witness to this whole catastrophe.About 20 minutes later the men started to escort me and the others from the area on to Bacardi Road This is when I became aware that this was a major operation, with more officers I had ever seen in one area representing the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the Immigration Department. I asked to see the commanding officer of the entire operation and was again told to shut up. The individual who escorted me squeezed the hand-cuffs so that by now they were cutting into my skin. We were then taken to the café and welcome centre where most of the patrons were lying on the ground.Our group’s public relations person, Vanessa Small, then came up to me and asked if I was all right. I told her I was not and asked her to call our lawyer. She told me that no one was allowed to use the phone at this time. Again I was told to shut up by the individual who escorted me, or faced being 'gun butted'. At this time I started to take an account of what was going on around me. I noticed that the place was in disarray. One patron seemed to have blood all over his shirt while others seemed to be in a state of shock.About 15 minutes later I was again asked to give the particulars of my identification. After it was established that I was the person who was in charge of the event, I was told by someone who identified himself as an inspector that I had to have my property searched and was told to follow two unidentified officers into the Millar’s Creek Office and cottage. I was then interrupted by a lady who did not identify herself. She started to ask me questions about my identification and my past and present employment. I told her that I had taught at a private school for about 10 years before pursuing the Millar’s Creek Project. She cracked some joke with the others asking me if I had been fired. After both establishments had been thoroughly searched, the officer who carried out the search said that he was satisfied that there was nothing illegal found. They then took my laptop and digital camera. I told them I needed to be present when they went through my documents. They told me I did not have any rights.It was only after the search was done that another officer presented me with a search warrant. He advised me that they were in search of illegal weapons and drugs. I realized then that our organization had been set up. I responded that no illegal activities were allowed in this area as the park is an area for family events and the Welcome Centre was offered free of charge to anyone who wanted to have a non-profit event. I further stated that if illegal drugs or any other illegal activity was allowed I would not have gone through the trouble of having individuals searched at the gate before entering. An hour later I again asked to see the chief commander. One of the inspectors pointed him out to me but cautioned that I had to be profiled first and have a picture taken with which I complied. I spoke to the person in charge of the entire investigation who did not identify himself or show any other form of identification. I told him that this was a big misunderstanding and that what they were doing was against the law. I was cautioned by an inspector who insisted that he knew for sure that we harboured illicit drugs and guns in this area. I then asked him to show the proof of this. He produced a receipt that he claimed was dropped by someone who had paid for drugs on the property. I found it ludicrous that someone would incriminate himself/herself by writing a receipt with his/her name on it for selling drugs. I did not relay my thoughts to the inspector.At this point I believed all the high ranking officers knew that they had made a grave mistake. They did several background checks on me and found that I had a clean record and an impeccable past. Ten minutes later one of the inspectors came to me and said I had a warrant for a minor traffic offence that was committed in 2006. He continued that I must be placed under arrest and that only a judge could 'free me'. I told him that I was responsible for securing the place and that the government would be responsible for any vandalism or stealing that could occur if no one was there. This is when an officer who introduced himself as Evans told me that I would be free to secure my place over the weekend but I needed to see him at the Carmichael Road Police Station on the following Monday. I told him I would do so as soon as I spoke to our lawyer. Before leaving I was cautioned by an inspector about what to say in regards to that night’s operation. He reminded me that they had done me a favour by not locking me up for a traffic warrant. He, along with the unidentified chief operation officer, insisted that they knew for sure that this place had illegal activities and they would continue to target it. I reiterated that this was false and for the record I was not going to accept this statement.It was about after 3:30 am when the unidentified squad team started to wrap up their operation- I was released from my handcuffs. All Bahamians were asked to vacate the premises first, followed by other individuals. I insisted that Vanessa Small, our group’s public relations administrator stay so we could take an account of everything.After all the officers had left the scene I began to take an assessment of the past night’s operation. I found out that some of my workers who had work permits had been taken to the detention centre. The persons who were responsible for collecting money at the gate stated that the envelope containing the money was taken by officers. The person who was operating the bar explained that when he was told to lie down, a junior officer attempted to take about two-thousand dollars from his pocket. A senior officer instructed the officer to put the money back without any warnings or disciplinary action levied against this officer. Several cell phones had been tossed into the creek. Someone had his passport torn. Some patrons had been walked on and gun butted by unidentified officers. The most amazing thing I found out that some of the officers had consumed most of the food and drinks that were on sale at this event.On Sunday 20th April I began to take a full report from all the individuals who had worked or had been present the night before. Many individuals complained that money had been removed from their living quarters by officers.Today, Monday, 21 April I am still in a state of shock as I write this report. I have contacted about 50 individuals who are willing to testify and verify these reports. The Millar’s Creek Preservation Group has decided to forward this report to the Ministry of National Security and Immigration, the Commissioner of the Royal Bahamas Police Force, the Commander of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and the Director of Immigration, with the hope that an explanation will be forthcoming; and that the irregularities mentioned in this report concerning the actions of some officers will be investigated and dealt with immediately.The Millar's Creek Preservation will be holding a press conference at 2 pm Wednesday, April 22, 2008 at the Millar's Creek Recreation Park located off Bacardi Road. We have invited victims who attended the function to be a part of this conference.E. Emmanuel McKenzieChairmanMillar’s Creek Preservation Group