The headlines in newspapers all across the Caribbean region paint a grim and vivid picture of the events that took place on Wednesday in Washington.
The Caribbean Weekly News headline on Thursday was “The Unfortunate January 6 Events in Washington DC Were Predictable.” The Haiti Times headline was “Haitians: Mob Violence in DC Hits Too Close to Home.” The Jamaica Gleaner headline read “This Is Un-American — Diaspora Leaders Shocked at Storming of Capitol Building.” The Trinidadian Guardian headline said “US Ambassador: Our democracy will bounce back.”
Joseph Mondello, U.S. ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, made a statement to the press on Thursday from Port of Spain. “We watched with shock, sadness, and dismay the deadly scenes of unrest at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C.,” he said. “We saw individuals abuse their First Amendment right to protest peacefully as afforded to them by our sacred U.S. Constitution, threatening to obstruct the certification of electoral votes, while putting elected officials, federal employees, Capitol building staff, and law enforcement in harm’s way.”
Mondello was one of many U.S. ambassadors in the Caribbean who rushed to reassure the leaders of their commitment to democracy. He said the U.S. remains committed to democracy, security, human rights, good governance, trade and investment in Trinidad and Tobago.
The Organization of American States — 35 countries including the United States, Canada and most South American and Caribbean countries — also condemned the pro-Trump attack by disgruntled rioters against the U.S. Capitol.
Keith Rowley, the prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago and chair of the Caribbean Community, made a statement Wednesday that all of the CARICOM leaders are “deeply saddened and concerned at the unprecedented scenes that unfolded at the Capitol Building.” He said the storming of the U.S. Congress was an assault against democracy in a place that has long been a symbol of hope and freedom to the world. He said CARICOM looks forward to the restoration of order and a peaceful transfer of power.
Norman, a relative who lives in the U.K., reached out to us and said: “I do not live in the United States, however I’m shocked and saddened at the same time. I hardly got any sleep last night because I was glued to the tele. I couldn’t believe what my eyes were seeing!”
“The big question in my mind was where were the police and why did it take so long for the National Guard to arrive,” he said. “Now the world has seen who the real Donald Trump is, instigating violence to his fellow politicians, that’s dirty politics. I sure hope things will go back to normal.”
As much as the minds and emotions of people in other parts of the world are in a tailspin, the people in the neighboring Caribbean were poised for ANY outcome because they just did not know what to expect. Would this coup end in a mob successfully taking over the Capitol or would they be met with such a strong police presence that they would be forced to fall back? Whatever the outcome, they had their eyes on their televisions and telephones, and for those without Internet or wi-fi signals, their ears were glued to their radios, concerned about relatives and friends, and wondering what kind of impact it would have on them.
In the U.S., Caribbean-Americans were wide-eyed as we sat at the edge of our seats watching, confident that the police and military would swoop in on the riotous mob any minute. But it never happened! Nothing happened!
The South Florida Caribbean News featured a statement from Florida state Sen. Shevrin Jones on Wednesday that condemned the riot as a “shameful moment in our nation’s history.” An article on Thursday was crafted around singer, songwriter and producer Daniel Bartley Jr.’s song, “A Change Must Come.”
The wind of change is in the air, but we should not sit back and wait for positive change in our lives. We have to make things happen.