ALL lives cannot matter if black lives don’t matter!

These were the words of political leader of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ), David Abdulah, yesterday as he led a protest in support of the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM) which originated in the United States.

Abdulah, along with some MSJ supporters, stood by the Queen’s Park Savannah, opposite the US Embassy, Marli Street, Port of Spain, and held up placards encouraging drivers to honk their horns.

One of his supporters wore a black face mask with the words “I can’t breathe” and another held up a placard which read “Black Lives Matter”.

The words “I can’t breathe” were the final words of George Floyd, an African American man who was last week killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

As a result, thousands of people across all 50 states have been protesting against police brutality and racism. The protests have now gone global with people across the world showing solidarity for the movement.

Abdulah said, “The MSJ decided to come outside the US Embassy today to express our solidarity with the very powerful rebellion that is taking place in the United States that started over the murder by a policeman and joined in by other police officers of George Floyd. We are here to say that black lives matter. We are here to say no to racism wherever and whenever it appears. We are here to say no to injustice anywhere and everywhere and certainly the issues that have arisen in the United States demands our solidarity. MSJ is about solidarity. That’s one of our core principles but also very importantly there’s a huge Caribbean diaspora. We all have family in the United States. Some of us have parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends, former co-workers, former neighbours, siblings who live in the United States and therefore they, too, are subjected to the kind of racism every day in the United States... Significantly, we are the first and perhaps the only political party so far in Trinidad and Tobago to make a statement and what is happening is that in the Caribbean we are now seeing important voices being raised.”

Drivers honk horns

Abdulah added, “This is not a George Floyd issue. This is not just even a United States issue. This is a global issue and it is an issue as well of injustice, poverty, economic policies that result in wealth and income being hugely unequal. We’re talking about discrimination and injustice in terms of healthcare where people of colour are dying disproportionately of Covid in United States, in the UK and elsewhere. We’re talking about problems of housing and of the criminal justice system and so many other things, of violence being done to people who are being historically exploited from slavery to now. And here in Trinidad and Tobago we also have to recognise that we have a lot of injustice, discrimination, inequality, and so we also have to fight against injustice here in Trinidad and Tobago and that is our message here today.”

During the protest, many drivers honked their horns and a few shouted “black lives matter”.

Five minutes into Abdulah’s demonstration, police officers attached to the St Clair police station arrived at the scene and stopped Abdulah’s interview with the media.

They informed him that he was not allowed to protest in groups exceeding five persons.

According to the public health regulations in place during the Covid-19 pandemic, gatherings of more than five persons in one area are strictly prohibited.

Businesses ‘cancelled’

On Tuesday, what was meant to be a day dedicated to show solidarity online to the BLM movement, many local business owners posted the hashtag #AllLivesMatter.

Some also expressed their outrage over the protests currently taking place throughout the United States.

However, this has now resulted with many other people calling for the public to boycott their businesses.

Owner of Starlite Pharmacy in Maraval, Michael Patrick Aboud; owner of Dianne’s Tea Shop in Maraval, Dianne Hunt, and Bakery Treatz owner Michelle Sohan were among several popular business owners who have been “cancelled” on social media.

The “All lives matter” hashtag is a controversial slogan because it is often said as a response to Black Lives Matter, the slogan of the BLM movement which campaigns against systematic racism and violence towards black people.

It is seen as a detraction from black people’s concerns and belittles claims of racial injustice.

All three business owners have since issued apologies on their social media accounts.