Trinidad Activists Score Victory With 15-Week Protest
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 4, 2003
PORT-OF-SPAIN, TRINIDAD--A 116-day protest in front of a government facility ended last Friday with activists declaring victory.
The protest started soon after the state-owned National Flour Mills refused to hire Devon Garraway and Anthony Diaz in the first week of May. It ended when Prime Minister Patrick Manning promised employment at the facility for the two men -- who are members of Trinidad and Tobago's branch of Disabled Persons International -- along with other significant concessions.
During the fifteen week demonstration, protesters gathered under a tent outside National Flour Mills, educating reporters, government officials and the public about their issues.
According to George Daniel, president of the local DPI chapter, Mr. Manning agreed to several conditions in addition to hiring Garraway and Diaz. Daniel said that Manning promised that a Disabilities Act, similar to the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, would be put in place to protect the rights of people with disabilities. A good start is Manning's commitment that all schools -- including old buildings -- would be made accessible to persons with disabilities.
The protesters are cautiously optimistic that their action will have a lasting impression on the island nation's attitudes.
"We are satisfied for now with the Prime Ministers pronouncement. But the disabled community will remain visible . . . we will not go invisible again," Daniel told the Trinidad Guardian.
"We have paid a great price and we hope that the last 15 weeks will not go in vain."
Wednesday's Trinidad Guardian ran an editorial supporting the activists' work.
"Camp dismantled, but... 'Disabled' will not disappear'" (Trinidad Guardian)
"A large step by disabled" (Trinidad Guardian)