Hispanic community accuses police of brutality

Kevon James
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By Shermain Bique-Charles

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A number of Hispanic people living in Antigua and Barbuda have told Observer they are being victimised by lawmen here.

The comments follow an incident over the weekend that went locally viral after video footage showed police barging into a house on Tindale Road and aggressively removing Dominican Republic native Kevon James from the building.

The man was then pinned to the floor by about four officers who wrestled to restrain him, while objects from unknown sources appeared to have been pelted in the direction of the police.

In an exclusive interview on Tuesday night, James told Observer that he was being reprimanded for not wearing a mask and was subsequently charged with four offences to include failure to wear a mask and resisting arrest, which he was due to answer in court yesterday.

“I didn’t do anything to them. I wasn’t looking for trouble. They beat me, pushed me down. I never disrespected them. Everything they told me, I did. They told me show my ID, I showed my ID … I didn’t have my mask so I agree I was wrong,” he said.

While the scope of alleged police brutality towards Hispanic people in Antigua and Barbuda is difficult to quantify or verify, the man claimed this is not the first time lawmen have acted in a “savage” manner towards Hispanics living in the country.

James, who said he has been living in the twin island state for 17 years, explained that he became a citizen through the process of naturalisation.

Meanwhile, a leader of the local Spanish-speaking community, Alex Martinez, is of the view that police and even some residents “hate” the fact that Hispanics have settled in their country.

“Let me remind you we are human beings. You have families and friends just like us. Probably your ancestors have families with our people … it seems like for many years, we are not supposed to be here. I see that. Every time you mention the name Spanish, it’s a headache,” he stated.

Martinez made further accusations against the lawmen and accused them of using excessive force, especially when dealing with Hispanics.

“Why is it that the police have to knock down people, push people? You keep banging our people; why? We didn’t come here to fight. If we came here to fight, we can fight a lot, in many aspects,” Martinez said.

However, Acting Superintendent of Police Frankie Thomas defended his colleagues, saying that lawmen have been met with aggression on many occasions when they are called to address matters relating to Spanish-speaking residents.

Thomas recalled that a few months ago, policemen were stoned and assaulted by members of the Hispanic community when they responded to an incident in St Johnston’s Village.

He said a “brand new” police vehicle was severely damaged when it was pelted with stones which broke the windscreen and windows.

“Here you have a similar situation where officers would have gone to respond to certain reports in the Hispanic community and they were met with some level of aggression,” Thomas said.

Thomas, the police spokesman, said lawmen will continue to engage with the Hispanic community but will not condone any unlawful behaviour from any resident.

“We will continue to have dialogue but we will not condone any lawlessness coming from anyone; it matters not your nationality.

“At the end of the day, we have to live together and they should appreciate that while they reside here they have to respect the laws,” the police PRO added.

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