St Vincent and the Grenadines’ New York Consulate General and the St Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York say they are organising a town hall meeting in Brooklyn this week so nationals can hear directly from United Nations’ Ambassador Camillo Gonsalves about his recent arrest by the New York Police Department (NYPD).
The announcement, made on Saturday evening, came as Vincentians here continue to express mixed views about the envoy’s arrest on March 28. “The town hall meeting featuring His Excellency Ambassador Camillo Gonsalves is very important,” Maxwell Haywood, chairman of the St Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), in an exclusive interview.
“Vincentians in the Diaspora have many questions about the incident between Ambassador Gonsalves and the policeman working with the NYPD. Many of them still do not have the information from the ambassador,” added Haywood, who also serves as a United Nations development officer. “So it is important that Vincentians living in New York and other places in the USA get the opportunity to hear directly from Ambassador Gonsalves, instead of hearsay,” he continued.
“It is vital for them to have the information so they could judge for themselves.” Rights violated Haywood also said the meeting is for the New York Consulate General and the St Vincent and the Grenadines Diaspora Committee of New York to “express solidarity with our highest representative at the global level”, stating that the sovereign rights of St Vincent and the Grenadines were violated in the ambassador’s arrest.
“In addition, our ambassador, who is also human, needs all the love, care and solidarity he could get at this moment,” he told CMC. “Ambassador Camillo Gonsalves represents the nation’s highest levels of aspirations, culture, and humanity in the eyes of the international community. To the world, he embodies the nation’s dignity, soul and heart,” he added.
“Moreover, he is protected by international law, yet he was treated in this manner. We must show solidarity,” continued Haywood, stating that the meeting will take place on Wednesday evening at the Friends of Crown Heights Educational Center.
Gonsalves, the eldest son of St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, said he was arrested for about 20 minutes by a white police officer in the lobby of the building that houses the St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Mission to the UN in midtown Manhattan.
He has strongly denied claims by the NYPD that he was arrested after he refused to identify himself. Gonsalves further said he did not get the opportunity to show identification because the police officer, who he could not identify by his last name and badge number – Parker, 21289 – had unexpectedly grabbed him from behind and “spun” him around, in the lobby of the building and immediately wrestled to handcuff him.
Arrested despite immunity - The envoy, however, said while his hands were clasped in front of his person, he told Officer Parker that he should not be arrested under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which gives diplomats immunity.
Gonsalves also denied reports that he had entered barricades erected in front of the mission building at 800 Second Avenue. He said no wooden or metal barricade was erected in front of the building when he returned from a business lunch with the UN ambassadors of Taiwan and Gambia.
He said police usually erect metal barricades to contain the crowd when there are demonstrations against Israel, whose mission to the UN is also housed, along with some Caribbean and African countries, in the same building. Gonsalves, however, said metal railings were stacked against concrete blocks in front of the building. “To say I went through the barricade wouldn’t be correct,” he told CMC.
“I did not break the barricade.” “The mere fact that he (Gonsalves) is a black man, the racist element comes out,” said Jofford Sutherland, president of the Brooklyn-based Friends of St Vincent and the Grenadines Committee, the New York arm of the incumbent Unity Labour Party in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
“It does not matter what are your credentials, racism still exists,” added Sutherland, the dean of a public school in Brooklyn. “It’s being perpetuated in a most sophisticated way. We (the United States) are supposed to be the bastion of democracy, and these things are still happening.”