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The Mennonite Community Files Complaint Against the Police Department

Representatives of the Mennonite communities of Blue Creek and Spanish Looking have filed a complaint against the Police with the Professional Standards Branch Unit. The submission comes after members of those communities had a confrontation with officers last weekend as they attempted to share their message of ‘Free Belize’ to the old capital. Their attempts were ultimately foiled by the Police via a road block on the main highways, but according to attorney-at-law Arthur Saldivar, who is representing some two hundred members of the communities, the police acted illegally.

Arthur Saldivar, Attorney: What the members of the Mennonite Community, those who were travelling on the road due East on Saturday the 18th have complained about is the fact that they were unlawfully stopped. Their IDs were taken from them by law enforcement, the IDs were also photographed and they were also photographed in their vehicles. Again the police has no ability to breach the law themselves. In fact you would know that one of the – there’s an infraction for anybody to block the public road without lawful authority. The police had no lawful authority to block the public road simply to stop persons who are driving along the road within their legal right to do so. Even if it were that the police suspects that something was going to happen or they were going somewhere they shouldn’t go there is no authority for them to intercept those persons before arriving at where they believe they would go. Now it is uncertain whether everyone on that road with the black flags was going to go to for argument sake Battlefield Park. Some persons could have been going to Shipyard, others may have been going to Sarteneja and Consejo Shores we don’t know, the police don’t know. So to stop them in the middle of the road as they were is certainly a breach and a violation of their constitutional freedom of movement. Basically the persons who have gone to the police department have gone to complain about their rights that were being violated it is to put the police department on notice that this kind of action is one that is deemed to be unwarranted and certainly it’s more than just an inconvenience it is a violation of the rights of the citizens and one for which there is need for redress .Now the where it is gleaned that the commissioner is the catalyst behind this kind of action then it is clear to those who are making complaints that the last stop cannot be the Professional and Standards Branch of the police department but they might have to go further.”

Prior to the rally the Commissioner of Police Chester Williams issued a warning to the participants, informing them that the gathering was illegal. Our newsroom asked Saldivar if his clients were being defiant when pushing ahead with the event despite being warned. This was his response.

Arthur Saldivar, Attorney: “There is no defiance. Can you classify two persons in a vehicle as a gathering. If two persons are sitting inside the cab of a vehicle that cannot be considered a gathering.  A gathering certainly denotes tens or hundreds of persons in close proximity outside in the open or in enclosed structures large enough to accommodate such a gathering. But a gathering cannot be deemed to occur within the confines of a vehicle where the occupancy is being maintained within legal limits. So by virtue of persons being inside their vehicles being transported from one place to the next without more that cannot be said to be in defiance of anything. Now it was for the commissioner now to have his police officers exercise common sense and restraint to see where these people were going to go, what they were going to do after they got there if they got to where the Commissioner believed they would go and then if it were that they were breaking the law then to make the arrests necessary but that was not done, it was premature. It seems to me the Commissioner if somewhat prone to prematurity.”