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Environmentalists want probe into ‘hate rallies’

NASSAU, The Bahamas--More than two months after filing an official complaint about a series of hostile and intimidating demonstrations that left its members living in fear, environmental group Save The Bays (STB) says it is concerned and disappointed over the lack of police response.

Its original complaint highlighted a demonstration during the New Year's Day Junkanoo parade, where hostile and xenophobic messages targeted chairman Fred Smith, QC, and renowned international businessman and conservationist Louis Bacon. The men were dressed in Ku Klux Klan (KKK) uniforms, and carried banners with messages "Bacon is KKK" under an image of a burning cross; "Join the coalition to banish Bacon"; "Fred Smith, Haitian infidel"; and "Is Fred Smith a Bahamian or an illegal Haitian?"

In a follow-up letter to Commissioner Ellison Greenslade, STB insisted that incident and other similar occurrences – perpetrated by groups of masked men engaging in menacing behaviour – amounted to "criminal threats, intimidation and harassment" and urged police to immediately launch a full investigation.

"Given the serious nature of the hate rallies and the victims' continued fear and anxiety for their safety and well-being, we are concerned and disappointed by your unresponsiveness to the complaint," the letter stated.

"The lack of response to the complaint is particularly shocking since you have in the past given an undertaking to take action against perpetrators involved in similar matters to that faced by the victims."

The letter noted the Commissioner's April 2013 warning against the use of social media to malign the character of individuals and pointed out that the Commissioner had urged victims of such attacks to report to him personally if they believed the investigation was not progressing quickly.

It also lamented that the attacks on STB members were not treated with the same urgency as other recent attempts to bully, defame and verbally attack individuals.

Among the other incidents identified by the STB was a protest in December 2014, featuring identical banners and costumes to the New Year's Day incident, which attempted to hijack an event organised by STB that was being held in support of the passage of a Freedom of Information Act. Targets included STB education director Joseph Darville, a veteran educator, as well as newly appointed STB director, public relations guru Diane Phillips.

A march through downtown Nassau in July 2014 attacked Bacon, Fred Smith and esteemed religious leader Reverend Dr. CB Moss, calling them frauds and terrorists.

"Unfortunately, despite the various attacks on the victims and the large number of persons who have witnessed such attacks and/or may have been influenced by the same, it would appear as if law enforcement has taken a different approach in this matter from other recent cases," STB wrote in its letter to Commissioner Greenslade.

"Naturally, we are confused by this departure from precedent and, as such, seek an explanation as to why this matter has not garnered the same attention as those of a similar nature. As far as the victims are aware, the perpetrators of the hate rallies are still at large and, at minimum, there has not even been an investigation as to who is responsible for instigating the same."

Founded two years ago, STB began as a grassroots effort to protect ecologically significant areas of The Bahamas from unregulated development. It is now a broad-based coalition calling for comprehensive environmental protection, oil spill legislation and greater transparency in government. ~ Caribbean360 ~

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