BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, CMC – The St. Kitts and Nevis police have denied claims of discrimination and victimization by a group of Rastafarians who plan to stage a demonstration here on Friday.
Police public relations officer, Inspector Lyndon David, speaking on a WINN radio programme Sunday, dismissed claims by the Nyabinghi Theocracy Order that members were being singled out for harassment by law enforcement officials.
He said many police officers have friends and relatives who are members of the Rastafarian movement that began in the 1930s in Jamaica and spread worldwide.
“We have something called reasonable suspicion and...if someone gives the indication of being suspected of having marijuana, firearm or unlawful material...the police will stop and search you.
“I will not say because you are a Rasta we would single you out and search you,” he told radio listeners.
The Rastafari movement encompasses themes such as the spiritual use of cannabis and the rejection of westerm society. It proclaims Africa and embraces various Afrocentric and Pan-Africcan social and political aspirations.
The Nyabinghi Theocracy Order, an organization of Rastafaris in Unity, said the rally on Friday will also mark the birthday of the Jamaican national hero, Marcus Garvey, while at the same time protesting what it consider discrimination, police brutality and marginalization of Rastafarians.
“Our rights are enshrined in the Constitution,” said Ras Dabo, secretary and public relations officer of the local Rastafarian movement, arguing that preventing members from using marijuana as a religious practice is violation of their constitutional rights.
He said Rastafarians when they sent to jail are also discriminated against by having their locks cut and “our diets are not catered for”.
In addition, he said, their children are also discriminated at schools.
Ras Dabo, speaking on the same WINN radio programme, said the police had also prevented the group from staging its march in front of the government building that houses the Office of the Prime Minister
But Inspector David said dismissed the claim noting that in recent months, police have barred protestors from using the route in front of the Government building.
He said the decision also rests on a number of issues including intelligence and the need to ensure the peace and safety of all citizens.