Antigua St. John's - Eugene Humphreys, self-styled “Minister of Helps”, has at last realized his long-delayed goal of leading a protest demonstration through the streets of St. Johns.
The march, designed to focus public attention on the ongoing failure by the United Progressive Party (UPP) government to deal forthrightly with the “Fences” affair and the Wadadli Power Plant (WPP) contract, went off peacefully. The protestors were accompanied throughout by a contingent of uniformed police officers.
The demonstration featured a boisterous display of the kind of “street theatre” with which the Minister of Helps and the “Serial Marchers” have become identified. On this occasion, however, the demonstration was strictly a Eugene Humphreys event: with the sole exception of veteran Serial Marcher Colin Sampson, no members of the original protest group were in evidence.
The demonstration received significant support from supporters of the Antigua Labour Party (ALP). About a fifth of the marchers sported ALP red. One or two demonstrators carried placards highlighting issues championed by the opposition party.
Member of Parliament for St. Marys North Molwyn Joseph took part in the demonstration. Senator Gail Christian, who plans to challenge incumbent Baldwin Spencer for his St. Johns Rural West seat in 2014, joined in, as did Opposition Leader Lester Bird, who smilingly trailed the marchers in a chauffeured vehicle.
As the determined band of some three dozen demonstrators moved through the streets of the city it was clear that onlookers and passers-by were generally in sympathy with the marchers. Smiles and expressions of support for the objectives of the demonstration were the order of the day, and the general atmosphere was one of conviviality.
The carnival atmosphere was significantly enhanced by the sometimes over-enthusiastic “bashing” some demonstrators meted out to an effigy of Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer.
The PM’s stubborn refusal to deal in a transparent and accountable manner with the “Fences” and WPP issues has attracted widespread public criticism.
The intense frustration and anger caused by Spencer’s continuing obduracy was visibly released by some demonstrators. By the time the march reached its terminal point an effigy of the PM had been reduced to tatters, and no longer had “it’s head on”.
A group of some fifty persons gathered at the Dredgers Playing Field to be addressed by speakers Ralph Francis, Colin Sampson and Eugene Humphreys. Some of those who had previously agreed to deliver remarks failed to appear, which shortened the proceedings considerably. However, those present were visibly and vocally appreciative of the speakers’ comments.
The relatively small but committed group of protestors expressed their readiness to continue indefinitely with a series of Thursday afternoon demonstrations, and urged the Minister of Helps to press on with his crusade to induce a recalcitrant government to respond to the wishes of the people.
Accordingly, Eugene Humphreys has announced his intention to apply on Friday 13 for a permit to hold another protest march on Thursday July 19. If the enthusiastic response to the Minister of Helps’ pledge is any indication, that demonstration should receive even greater support than the event of Thursday July 12.