Friday, April 06, 2012

NDP Thinks Racist Police Assault OK

The Antigua Observer reports on the effect of Vincy politics on the assault to Ambassador Gonsalves, The NDP evidently would prefer SVG diplomats to be at risk of assault by rogue cops, and they glory in the lack of knowledge of the police.

Vincentians in New York express mixed views about envoy’s arrest

NEW YORK, April 1, CMC – Vincentians here in general have expressed mixed sentiments about Wednesday’s arrest of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ United Nations Ambassador, Camillo Gonsalves, by the New York Police Department (NYPD).
Gonsalves, the eldest son of Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonslaves, has vehemently denied claims by the NYPD that he was arrested on Wednesday after he refused to identify himself in the lobby of the building that houses the Mission to the United Nations in midtown Manhattan.

“The mere fact that he (Camillo Gonsalves) is a Black man, the racist element comes out,” said Jofford Sutherland, president of the Brooklyn-based Friends of St. Vincent and the Grenadines Committee, the New York arm of the incumbent Unity Labor Party in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in an exclusive Caribbean Media Corporation interview on Sunday.

“It does not matter what are your credentials, racism still exists,” added Sutherland, the dean of a public school in Brooklyn. “It’s being perpetuated in a most sophisticated way. We (the United States) are supposed to be the bastion of democracy, and these things are still happening.

“It’s very unfortunate that it (arrest) happened, and it will not be the last for Black people to be treated this way. It’s total disrespect for the Black man,” Sutherland continued.

“If he were White, they would not have put handcuffs on him,” he said. “This is disgusting and belittling. They (Gonsalves administration) should demand an apology from the (US) State Department. I don’t care which political party is in power (in St. Vincent and the Grenadines), they should respect his office (UN).”

Maxwell Haywood, chairman of the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Diaspora Committee of New York, said he was “comprehensively appalled that this can happen to anyone, especially one of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ highest representatives at the global level.

“This is a very loud message to all of us that police harassment and brutality are alive and well,” said Haywood, who is also a United Nations’ Development Officer.

“We have to be always vigilant against such police actions,” he added, noting that the police officer who arrested Gonsalves was white.

“This means we have to be very organized, and we need an organized response to this action by the police,” Haywood told CMC.
Greg Dublin, a director with the Brooklyn-based Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center, said Gonsalves’ arrest was “unwarranted and appears to be an overzealous response of a police officer.

“The fact that Camillo (Gonsalves) has been doing this (walking through the railings in front of the building) for the past five years is an indication that his action is somewhat admissible,” he said.

“If the officer had simply asked for identification and thereby established his (Gonsalves) diplomatic status, this fiasco could have been avoided,” he added.

“The grabbing of the neck and arm and forcibly turning one around in those circumstances seem excessive to me,” Dublin added. “A thorough investigation should be forthcoming.”

But Vincent Bacchus, a former police sergeant in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, who currently serves as president of the Brooklyn-based St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Progressive Organization of New York (SPONY), the arm of the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, said Gonsalves was “totally wrong” in his actions.
“He went through the barricade knowing that New York is high against terrorism. He should have stood up and speak to the police. The police didn’t know who he was,” he said.

“All these things could have been avoided,” he added. “It’s Camillo’s (Gonsalves) fault. He should have complied with the police. The police was carrying out his duties according to how he was trained.

“If he’s (Gonsalves) immuned (because of diplomatic immunity), the police did not know that. It’s not the same police stationed there all the time,” Bacchus continued. “To me, Camillo was showing his true colors. You avoid things. The police did not do anything wrong.”

Bacchus also warned the Gonsalves administration in Kingstown to be careful how it responds to the incident.

“He (Gonsalves) should be quiet,” he said. “If you sue (file legal action), Vincentians are here (in the United States). You’ll make it difficult for others who want to come here,” he said, dismissing, at the same time, charges of racism in the matter.

“It’s not racism,” Bacchus declared. “Let’s put fair where fair is. If Camillo was right, no matter what, he was right.”

Lennox Daniel, a former Deputy UN Ambassador in the Gonsalves administration, who has since switched allegiance to the NDP and currently serves as Bacchus’ deputy, said tersely, when CMC asked for comment: “No comment.”

But Stephen “Scumbo” John, SPONY’s treasurer, who unsuccessfully contested the 2001 general elections in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on the NDP ticket, in the South Windward constituency, said it’s “a lot of noise about nothing.

“To be stopped by police and put handcuffs on you, it’s nothing,” said John, who is also a high school principal in Brooklyn.
“He should have identified himself,” he, however, added. “That’s a mistake.”

At the same time, John said: “I’m not embarrassed that my ambassador was stopped by police and got handcuffed.

“This guy (police officer) on the beat did not know him (Gonsalves),” he added. “But, that’s (Gonsalves’ arrest) not a big thing.”
John also urged Prime Minister Gonsalves to tread cautiously in the matter.

“I think the PM (prime minister) should relax and don’t push too much,” he said. “He’s (Camillo Gonsalves) is not less of an ambassador because of that. Leave it alone. Nothing will come out of it.”

Godfrey Pitt, a former police officer in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, who heads the Brooklyn-based Friends of Argyle International Airport Committee, U.S.A., said the incident should not have occurred.

“Something went wrong, and it should not have led to that (arrest),” he said. “It’s a pity. Sometimes, you can only learn from these things.

“But I know some police officers, if you’re calm, they’ll respond differently,” Pitt added.

The NYPD claimed, in a brief statement, that its officer “had asked the ambassador to stop, he refused, he continued and entered into the location, and the officers followed him into the location.”

But Gonsalves refuted the NYPD’s claim.

“I never refused to identify myself,” he told CMC. “I asked him (police officer) ‘why, am I under arrest?’ And he said, ‘you’re now’.

“I didn’t say I wouldn’t show ID (identification),” Gonsalves affirmed.

He further said he did not get the opportunity to show identification because the white police officer, who he could only identify by his last name and badge number – Parker, 21289 – had unexpectedly grabbed him from behind and “spun” him around, in the lobby of the building and immediately wrestled to handcuff him.

The envoy, however, said, while his hands were clasped in front of his person, he told Officer Parker that he should not be arrested under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which gives diplomats immunity.

Gonsalves also denied reports that he had entered barricades erected in front of the Mission building at 800 Second Avenue.
He said no wooden or metal barricade was erected in front of the building when he returned from a business lunch on Wednesday with the UN ambassadors of Taiwan and Gambia.

He said police usually erect metal barricades to contain the crowd when there are demonstrations against Israel, whose Mission to the UN is also housed, along with some Caribbean and African countries, in the same building.

Gonsalves, however, said metal railings were stacked against concrete blocks in front of the building.

“To say I went through the barricade wouldn’t be correct,” he told CMC. “I did not break the barricade.”

Gonsalves said, after his driver dropped him off in front a “police guard post,” located in front of the building, he “nodded” at the police officer stationed inside.

As he walked towards the entrance, he said the officer shouted: “Hey, you, what do you see the barricades there for?”

Gonsalves said, since he thought the officer could not be speaking to him, he kept walking.

He said the officer then entered the building and “assaulted” him, calling for “back up” by other police officers.

The diplomat said, with the aid of his colleagues, Officer Parker handcuffed him for 20 minutes.

Gonsalves said, after his UN diplomatic colleagues and their staffers told the officers they had erred in arresting him, the officers tried to defuse the situation, deciding not to press “disorderly conduct” charges against him.

He said he had also spoken to a State Department official at the United Nations about the matter.

As a result of being “roughed up” by the police, Gonsalves said he is experiencing “a lot of numbness in my left thumb, and my left shoulder is having difficulty moving.

“Behind my left ear, I have scratches,” he said, disclosing that he had gone to the Emergency Room at New York University Hospital for treatment on Wednesday night.

“The ER (Emergency Room) doctor tells me I have peripheral nerve damage in my left hand and ligament damage to my left shoulder,” he added. “I was also given a tetanus shot because of a cut I received.”

Gonsalves said, while Officer Parker did not issue any racial epithets at him, he overhead him telling his colleagues: “I couldn’t let him come into the building. Look at him, he could be a terrorist.”

The envoy, however, said the other officers were not disrespectful to him.

“This is not an issue with the NYPD,” he said. “It’s one overzealous cop.”

Gonsalves said all diplomats at the Missions to the UN should be treated equally by the NYPD since “all States are equal.”

He said the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) diplomatic corps met on Thursday about the issue and “agreed to issue a number of letters” to the United States (as host country to the United Nations) and the UN Secretary General.

He said those letters will be copied to New York City Mayor’s Office and the Missions to the UN.

“It’s up to the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines how to respond to this, because it’s an affront to our country,” said Gonsalves, stating that “all of our options are open at this time.”

He said those “options” could be legal, political and/or diplomatic.

In a letter to US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, Delano Bart, ambassador of St. Kitts and Nevis to the UN and chairman of the UN caucus of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nations, said Gonsalves’ arrest was a “flagrant violation” of the rules of diplomatic immunity and privileges.

He described the Officer Parker’s treatment of Gonsalves as “provocative and uncivilized” and a “very serious and flagrant violation of obligations under the United Nations Headquarters Agreement and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.”
Under those agreements, the US recognizes diplomatic immunity from arrest and prosecution for accredited foreign diplomats.
“On his way to the elevator, he was shouted at and confronted by a police officer, who rudely questioned his action and then grabbed him by the neck and shoulder, displaying undue physical harassment against the ambassador,” wrote Bart in his letter to Rice.