NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Attorney Wayne Munroe, QC, who represents a group of protestors who were arrested yesterday morning for breach of the emergency orders, said he plans to take legal action against Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis in a personal capacity on their behalf.
Organizers and dozens of other people who gathered near Windsor Park on East Street Tuesday morning to march onto Bay Street in protest of the seven-day lockdown implemented in New Providence on Monday evening were arrested.
A group of intended protestors sat in front of Super Value and decried the immediate lockdown, claiming residents, particularly the vulnerable, were unable to prepare to survive the period.
The arrests led to an emotive standoff between officers and scores of residents of the area, during which, several more people were detained.
According to Munroe, over 30 people were taken to the Cable Beach, Wulff Road and Central Police Stations.
“There is a group of us working on the litigation; we are going to be representing them,” he told Eyewitness News.
“If they are charged with curfew violation we can sue the competent authority is his personal capacity where he (would have) to pay the damages. I am going to be encouraging them to do that.”
The group of 22 attorneys, include Damian Gomez, QC, Christina Galanis and Bjorn Ferguson, among other prominent attorneys, Munroe said.
Outside the Cable Beach Police Station, attorney Robyn Lynes, the deputy chairman of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), claimed officers told her if she was not able to name the detained protesters she would not be allowed to speak with them as counsel.
Attorney Robyn Lynes
She said the attorneys offers to represent the protestors pro bono, recognizing those arrested did not have means and took the streets out of frustration and anguish.
Attorney Koed Smith also questioned the constitutionality of denying the rights of citizens to feed themselves, referring to the immediate lockdown of New Providence, which including the closure of food stores and other essential services.
Eyewitness News understands several of the detained individuals were subsequently released.
When contacted, Police Commissioner Paul Rolle advised that the protestors did not have or seek permission to do so. In a broadcasted voice note, ASP Audley Peters said 39 people were arrested.
He said the group will be charged with “unlawful assembly”.
Yesterday, the prime minister announced a reversal of the lockdown in New Providence, allowing food stores and other essential services to resume operations Wednesday until further notice.
He said he heard the concerns of the Bahamian people and recognized the need to make “adjustments in the short term to strengthen in the long run”.
Last week, Munroe said the group of lawyers had filed a class-action lawsuit against the government over the state of emergency and emergency orders.
The writ was filed on behalf of 21 people, some of whom are business owners impacted by the orders and others who were charged and convicted for breach of the orders.
It made the case that the emergency orders were unconstitutional.
The Bahamas Bar Association President has expressed support for the move to challenge the government and allow questions to be put to it, and “unpack some of the assertions that are being presented to us”.
In a national address on Monday announcing the immediate and full lockdown in New Providence, Minnis said he had a constitutional duty as prime minister to save lives, stressing the country was facing an emergency that the founder fathers made provision for in the constitution via a state or emergency.
He said the measures, namely the emergency powers which curtails freedoms normally enjoyed, exist to allow the government to act to protect the people in time of “great national crisis”
“We are in such a time,” he said.
“In this pandemic we face our worst crisis in our history as a sovereign nation.
“If the government did not have the emergency powers there would be mass death in The Bahamas beyond the imagination of most.
“Those who tell you the emergency powers are not necessary are unserious and dead wrong. The government uses the emergency powers to enforce provisions that save lives.”