Thu | Oct 17, 2019

MoBay Pride furious over civic centre lockout

Published:Monday | September 16, 2019 | 12:15 AMChristopher Thomas/ Gleaner Writer

Gay-rights group, Montego Bay Pride, says it is contemplating legal action against Montego Bay Mayor Homer Davis, following his declaration last Thursday that the St James Municipal Corporation would not grant permission for the group to use the Montego Bay Cultural Centre for a series of upcoming events.

In a release yesterday, Montego Bay Pride’s planning committee expressed outrage at the mayor’s declaration, which was made during Thursday’s monthly sitting of the municipal corporation after Councillor Charles Sinclair brought the planned series of events to the meeting’s attention.

“The planning committee of Montego Bay Pride is shocked and dismayed by the decision of the city’s mayor and chair of the Montego Bay Cultural Centre, Homer Davis, to ban us from hosting any of our events at the centre, which is located in the heart of the city,” the release stated.

“In light of the far-reaching implications of the mayor’s actions, including the potential chilling effect on free speech and other constitutional rights, Montego Bay Pride is reviewing our legal options to ensure that this forum goes ahead as planned.”

During Thursday’s meeting of the municipal corporation, Davis refused to grant permission for Montego Bay Pride’s events at the cultural centre on the basis that the building’s original purpose should be preserved. The centre is a heritage building, which sits on the site of Montego Bay’s old courthouse, providing interactive and educational entertainment to visitors.

“We must not do anything to disturb the sacredness and purpose of why that building is there. People have their rights, and they can do what they want to do, but you must respect other people’s rights, too,” Davis said during the meeting.

However, Montego Pride’s coordinator Sharlene Kessan-Duncan said Davis’ refusal to grant permission for the group’s meetings would affect the western city’s tourism product.

“The mayor’s attempt to censor the voices of citizens reflects very badly on him and the city. It will also cause visitors to our vital tourism industry to question Montego Bay’s claim to be the ‘Friendly City’ if we can’t even allow a free discussion on a topical issue,” said Kessan-Duncan.