Guyanese in NY hold massive protest against alleged racism in homeland

Guyanese at massive rally in Brooklyn on Sunday, Aug.15.
Photo by Nelson A. King

In the first of what organizers say would be massive protests against the policies of the incumbent People’s Progressive Party (PPP)/Civic administration in Guyana, including alleged wanton racism, hundreds of Guyanese, other Caribbean nationals and “friends of Guyana” took to the streets of Brooklyn on Sunday demonstrating their fervent disapproval of the Guyana government’s policies.

Sunday’s march and rally in Brooklyn were organized by the newly-formed Guyanese Organizations Against Racism (GOAR), which comprises 25 groups in the New York tri-state area.

The Brooklyn-based group dubbed the march and rally “Guyanese Organizations Against PPP Apartheid Governance, Racism & Injustice.”

The march started at Church Avenue and proceeded south along Flatbush Avenue to Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, culminating in a three-hour-long, highly-charged rally.

Marchers waved large and miniature Guyanese national flags, and carried placards, while swaying to Caribbean music from a disc jockey.

Placards read, among other things, “Stop Racial Profiling,” “Stop Systemic Racism in Guyana,” “Under PPP/C Increased Victimization,” “Hands Up Everybody” and “We Must Work Together.”

The rally was punctuated with speeches by several Members of Parliament (MPs) in Guyana, Guyanese Diaspora leaders, as well as US elected officials and civil rights leaders.

Among dozens of speakers were seven MPs in Guyana, one regional chairman, one regional vice chairwoman, one mayor and two City Council members for the Georgetown (Guyana capital) municipality.

United States Congressman Hakeem Jeffries addresses the Guyanese rally to protest against racism in their country. Photo by Nelson A. King

High-ranking United States Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, who represents the 8th Congressional District, including parts of Brooklyn and the Borough of Queens, with a high concentration of Caribbean nationals, also addressed the rally.

“The Guyanese Organization against Racism organized this rally to send a message to the PPP/C administration to bring to the attention of the United States and the United Nations and all of the peace-loving people of the world the plight of people in Guyana,” Errol J. Lewis, chairman of the North America Region (NAR) of the main opposition People’s National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) in Guyana, told demonstrators at the rally. “A country of six races, yet not all races are experiencing, and can experience, a just life in Guyana.”

He said that, on Aug. 2 last year, the PPP/C Government, “with international help, was installed as the government in Guyana, despite a recount that showed fraud was committed by the PPP/C.

“Since then, we have seen nothing but discrimination based on race and political affiliation,” Lewis charged. “Over 1,000 public servants were dismissed from their jobs.

“There is discrimination in COVID 19 relief distribution; there is even discrimination in which vaccine is provided to communities,” he further charged. “We have heard of the fiasco with the SPUTNIK vaccine. Recently, we have seen where people of a specific ethnic group were locked out from their place of work, including doctors and nurses, a profession that we need now more than ever. Even military and para-military personnel were instructed to get a vaccine before they could return to work.

Some members of the Brooklyn-based Guyanese Organizations Against Racism (GOAR).Photo by Nelson A. King

“The PPP/C is showing their true colors,” Lewis added. “They are showing that they are dictators. But we are here today to send a message to the PPP/C that we, Guyanese, in the Diaspora will not sit back and do nothing.

“We will not turn a blind eye to the marginalization of our people, and we will not allow the PPP/C to return Guyana to the dark days of 1992-2015, where over 400 young Black males disappeared or were killed,” the NAR chairman continued. “The PPP/C was bad for Guyana then, and they are bad for Guyana now. The PPP/C must go!

“We call on all Guyanese, regardless of party affiliation, to remove the blinders and face reality,” Lewis said. “Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it, and the PPP/C is wrong for Guyana. We say no to the PPP/C racism, we say no to the PPP/C race-based and political discrimination.”

He also called on his “brothers and sisters in Guyana to stand up for justice.

“We want you to understand, the future belongs to those who prepare for it today,” Lewis added. “Let’s fight for the future of Guyana.”

Ganish Mahipaul said that, as a MP, he “cannot stand racism.

“As parliamentarians, we will continue to oppose them (PPP/C),” he told the rally. “They are too corrupt to be part of the leadership in Guyana.”

Natasha Singh-Lewis, a Muslim MP, said: “As long as you disenfranchise one set of people, the people will come after you.

Errol J. Lewis, chairman of the North America Region (NAR) of the main opposition People’s National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) in Guyana addressing the rally. Photo by Nelson A. King

“Our brothers and sisters are suffering,” she said. “I’m too smart, and I’m too brave to join the PPP. There’s strength in unity.”

Ubraj Narine, the Mayor of Georgetown, said the voices of the people in Guyana “need to be heard.

“The PPP Government continues to play cheap politics,” he said. “None of the actions of the PPP Government has been designed for the people of Georgetown.

“We want you to stand against corruption of the PPP Government,” he charged, as the DJ struck up “Mass in Guyana/People Going Crazy.”

Sherod Duncan, another MP, said: “You in the Diaspora have some work to do.

“No retreat!” he exclaimed. “Brooklyn, we gonna (going to) fight them. We got to fight.”

Duncan then asked rally participants: “How long, Brooklyn?”

The crowd roared back: “Not long!”

MP Juretha Fernandes said it was a “collective struggle.”

“The PPP is in government now, and they are discriminating against every single person; and we cannot tolerate them,” she said. “We’re not afraid of the PPP/Civic. We will not tolerate any type of racism. So, Brooklyn, keep the fight going.”

Introduced with the DJ playing Bob Marley’s “War”, MP Daniel Seeran said that “what happens here in Brooklyn will transcend to Guyana.

“This is the time to stand with me, to stand with me to ensure that all Guyanese will be one people, one destiny,” he urged.

Former Guyanese MP Simona Brooms with Rickford Burke, co-chair of GOAR and president of the Brooklyn-based Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID). Photo by Nelson A. King

Former PNC/R Minister Simona Brooms said it was “not a sympathy struggle.

“We have to keep the fight going,” she also urged demonstrators. “We can’t carry the fight for one day. You can’t fight this fight in a Parliament fight.

“But, together, outside the Parliament, (we’re) going back to the polls,” Brooms added.

Jeffries said he was in solidarity with the Guyanese people, stating that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

“Black Lives Matter in Guyana,” the US congressman said. “We stand with you in solidarity to deal with the situation in Guyana.

“We will not tolerate injustice,” he added. “And we will stand together until we end that situation in Guyana.”

Jeffries also disclosed that he will collaborate with Caribbean American Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, in urging US President Joe Biden to “get rid of the Trump-appointed ambassador in Guyana (loud applause).”

Anthony Beckford, the son of Jamaican immigrants, who chairs Black Lives Matter Brooklyn, told the rally: “We’re showing the PPP that we’re not going to take their racism.”
As he shouted “PPP”, the crowd retorted thunderously: “Must go!”

“Let everybody in Guyana know that we stand behind them,” Beckford said.

Registered Nurse Mercedes Narcisse, the Haitian-born Democratic Party nominee for the 46th City Council District in Brooklyn, noted the struggles of her native land, adding: “My Guyanese, we have endured a lot, but you, being here, we have hope.

“Together, we’re stronger,” Narcisse said. “Continue to struggle. We shall be free again.”

MP Amanza Walton-Desir told Caribbean Life that she was “encouraged by the response” to the call to end alleged racism in Guyana.

Guyanese MP Natasha Singh-Lewis. Photo by Nelson A. King

“It shows the Guyana Diaspora is very engaged and heavily interested in what’s taking place,” Walton-Desir said. “The PPP is oppressive and authorizes regular wonton discrimination against Afro-Guyanese and anyone supporting the Coalition.

“We’re here to bring attention to these issues and let the government know we’ll continue to stand up,” he added. “We’re having difficulties to get permission from the government to hold rallies and meetings. And outside Guyana, we’re continuing peaceful process.”

GOAR said Sunday’s events were part of a series of activities it is hosting, through Tuesday, to draw wider public awareness of alleged racism by the incumbent government in Guyana.

Rickford Burke, co-chair of GOAR and president of the Brooklyn-based Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy (CGID), a GOAR member, told Caribbean Life that the activities are geared towards creating an “awareness of the rapidly deteriorating political, social, economic situation in Guyana; pervasive racial injustice against African Guyanese and other non-supporters; the PPP misuse of the criminal justice system and Guyana Police Force as a vendetta hit squad against Black citizens.”

He said a Diaspora conference on Monday will “formulate a strategic plan to hold the PPP regime accountable at home and in the international community; expose PPP racism, bad governance and other atrocities; and establish a permanent campaign to disrupt and eliminate racist governance in Guyana.”

Burke said GOAR will also host a town hall meeting on Tuesday in Brooklyn.

He said GOAR has among its membership CGID, Black Lives Matter USA, Black Lives Matter Brooklyn, Guyana Ex-Police Association, Ex-Guyana Defense Force Association, Guyana Unity Movement, Anything Guyanese First, APNU/AFC N.A. Support Group, AFC Brooklyn, Sisters On The Move, Bartica Diaspora United, Guyana Veterans Association, Guyanese For Guyana’s Development, Guyana Karaoke Fans, Guyanese DJs & Promoters, One Guyana USA and Progressive Guyanese American Organization (PGAO).