“Do the right thing! Do the right thing! Do the right thing!”
Those were the chants of dozens of demonstrators who gathered at Heroes Square across from the House of Parliament on 11 Dec. to rally for the removal of McKeeva Bush from the Speaker’s chair after he pleaded guilty last week to two counts of common assault and one count of disorderly conduct.
Bush is accused of assaulting a female staff member at a West Bay Road bar earlier this year. CCTV footage played in court shows Bush grabbing the woman by her neck and then throwing plastic bus tubs at her.
He pleaded not guilty to one count of common assault.
“I’m out here because I will not stand silently by while someone in power abuses their authority and inflicts violence on other people, especially on women,” said Eden Hurlston, a co-organiser of Friday’s demonstration.
Armed with signs, some of which read, “Time to cut the bush”, “She could have been my mother”, “No one is above the law”, and “Your silence gives consent”; several dozen demonstrators called on politicians to speak out against gender-based violence.
“We’ve asked the community to gather for a very, very, very peaceful demonstration against violence, as well as a lack of accountability from our [Members of Parliament],” said Taura Ebanks, another organiser of the demonstration.
Ebanks told the Cayman Compass this is the first of several planned events that are aimed at not just Bush, but other politicians who acted in an “abhorrent manner”.
“You will find a long history trail of people who get elected to lead us and they commit abhorrent crimes. They get DUIs, they lose their driver’s licences, they assault people in our community, they have cultural misunderstandings, they feel as if they have the right to own a woman as a ‘sacred vessel’,” said Ebanks.
Two weeks after the assault, Speaker Bush issued a statement in which he said he could not remember what had transpired during the incident, and that he turned to alcohol following the death of his daughter, who passed several years before the incident. The statement was followed by a temporary leave of absence by Speaker Bush, who has since returned to the role.
Hurlston is one of several people who are now calling for Bush to step down.
“Putting the guilty plea aside, putting the pending court verdict aside, what we have is a man who issued a statement on February 24 saying that he has a problem with alcohol and blackouts,” said Hurlson. “He simply isn’t fit to help lead our country, and he should do the right thing and step down while he seeks help for his issues.”
Bush also faces a third and more serious charge of common assault, which stems from the same incident and to which he pleaded not guilty. That charge alleges he grabbed the woman by her hair and punched her in the face. Bush has denied this charge and, following a short and unexpected trial on the single count, he was re-released on bail while the court arrives at its judgment.
Ebanks said she is calling on serving politicians to create laws to allow voters to be able to remove an elected official from office outside of the general elections process.
“I don’t want to wait four years to say goodbye to somebody,” said Ebanks, “We need standards so that when our elected representatives do things, and they are not representing us the way that we believe we should be, we need a path to get them out.
“If we have a path to get them in, we deserve a path to get them out,” she added.
A handful of politicians and political hopefuls attended the protest. Independent North Side MP Ezzard Miller was one of them.
“I’m glad to see other people besides myself that will stand up for right, respectable, and honour, particularly when it is against violence towards our women,” said Miller.
“We cannot continue to send the message that it is OK for our girls and women to walk around in fear,” said Hurlston. “By not speaking up, we are also sending the wrong message to our men that it is OK to resolve our problems by beating women.”