Justice for Laddie Foundation engages for change
The Justice for Laddie Foundation held a “Youth for Change Symposium” in Belize City on Saturday. The foundation was formed after 14-year-old Laddie Gillett was killed by Police Corporal Kareem Martinez in Placencia on July 14, 2021. The foundation, organised by his family, is using this vehicle as a means to change the state of affairs, particularly how police and the citizenry are engaged. Dale McDougall reports.
14-year-old Laddie Gillett’s story was one of the most important ones in 2021. On the night of July 14, the teen was gunned down by a policeman, Kareem Martinez. While police maintain it was not intentional, Laddie’s death has left a hole in the community. But a foundation, formed in his name, was created – as a means to have what are likely difficult conversations, resulting hopefully in meaningful change. Lucy Fleming is Laddie’s grandmother.
Lucy Fleming – Laddie Gillett’s Grandmother: “And the family wanted to do something, put something together so that Laddie would not be forgotten and so that his life would not be in vain and even though we talk about justice for Laddie by justice for Laddie we mean justice for all our Laddies and all Belizeans everywhere.”
To improve the public’s faith in the justice system, the Justice for Laddie Foundation Director, Demmy Williams argues that we must make those who took the pledge to protect and serve to be more accountable.
Demmy Williams – Director, Justice for Laddie Foundation: “Accountability is definitely the word of the week and it’s also the word surrounding this entirely as we engage in this discussion we could feel that sense of frustration from all the youths that were in the room because our system is very much broken and because the system is broken accountability becomes almost nonexistent let’s be very real about it. And in Laddies’ case you have the state being accountable to itself. This wasn’t a lone gunman, this was an actual officer of the police department, somebody who was supposed to be protecting and serving the community so all eyes are on this because we want to ensure that you actually hold yourself to what you put into the laws.”
During the organisation’s weekend forum, critical law enforcement officials were absent. Laddie’s aunt, Sharon Meighan spoke on why she was hoping they’d be there.
Sharon Meighan – Laddie’s Aunt: “It is kind of disappointing. We do have many people here but we were expecting more people in authority to be here and so I hope they’re at least seeing this on social media or even in the news. I hope that we’ll still be able to reach them somehow.”
Williams conceded however that indeed the organisation reached out to key representatives, including Minister Kareem Musa, who was travelling over the weekend. But despite a lack of attendance, she says there is a sense of willingness to work alongside the foundation.
Demmy Williams – Director, Justice for Laddie Foundation: “It’s not that we don’t believe that they wanted to collaborate with us either we just believe the timing wasn’t there but they have assured us that they are willing to be a part of the process.”
…and course, the healthy discourse must continue.
Demmy Williams – Director, Justice for Laddie Foundation: “We had a very open discussions about the Laddie’s Law. These are points that the foundation has put forward to ensure what we believe would have been necessary to ensure that it doesn’t happen but also to get consultation from persons who could offer different perspectives, who are policy writers, they are in the department themselves so they could speak to different things that happened all in a community effort, a collaborative community effort to really seek justice not just for Laddie but for any other Laddie that would come after.
For Fleming, the foundation’s advocacy also includes creating secure spaces for children to grow and thrive.
Lucy Fleming – Laddie Gillett’s Grandmother: “We also want to create more safe places for children like I said we have done two so far but we really want to get into the city centres, obviously we need funding, we’ve gone through the family funding right now we’re looking for funding but we want to really place more safe centres for children not just playgrounds, basketball courts and that just so that children have a safe place where they can go because I agree with a lot of the comments today that we have to look at the core problems here. We have to really look at where these problems are coming from and the other thing that we must do is partner with the police. So we have to resurrect community policing. I came here nearly fifty years ago and I’ll tell you then we had our police in Cayo, we had our police on their bicycles, they were walking, they knew who they were, they knew who we are and now we don’t see that anymore. We see that there’s fear. There is some sort of a weird curiosity and so we would like to see a change in that a well so we’re hoping that this movement goes beyond just the youth but does really bring unity as well.”
As the family continues to grapple with this loss, the marathon continues to engage and ensure that incidents like this are prevented. Dale McDougall, Love News.