News

Bermudians protect Thunberg at Davos

  • Special duty: Touriqco Hassel working in Davos, Switzerland, this week at the 2020 World Economic Forum as a part of the Hub Culture team (Screen Shot from AFP News Agency)
  • Youth climate activists: Isabelle Axelsson, left, Loukina Tille of Switzerland, Vanessa Nakate of Uganda, Greta Thunberg of Sweden and Luisa Neubauer of Germany at Davos (Photograph supplied)

A security guard swapped doorman duties at Front Street bars for work with a world-famous teenage climate change campaigner at a gathering of global leaders.

Touriqco Hassell travelled to Davos, Switzerland, to join a group that helped Greta Thunberg and other activists at the annual World Economic Forum meeting.

Mr Hassell said yesterday the experience was “crazy”.

He added: “Everyone was trying to get pictures, it was mind-blowing.”

Although Mr Hassell said he was unable to talk as much as he would have liked to the teenage activist, he described her as “very calm” and “smart”.

The 29-year-old said: “It was quite an emotional buzz, it was extremely different.

“It was heartwarming because you’ve got these young people coming out, speaking about their country and these global leaders are just not really paying attention to it and they should.”

Mr Hassell added: “It’s not like she’s telling them what to do, she’s asking them to pay attention instead of worrying about putting money in their pockets. It was definitely a movement, I definitely felt a part of something great.”

Mr Hassell, who works for Sentinel Defense Group in Bermuda, is usually employed at bars and restaurants such as Port O Call, Astwood Arms and the Hog Penny or for special events like sports tournaments.

He said: “This was definitely different ... close protection, it was really good. Also, it puts Bermuda on the map that we can do it.”

He and fellow Bermudian Kion Knights worked with people from cities including London, New York, Hong Kong, Miami, Zurich and Paris as part of a team organised by Bermuda-based Hub Culture, which attends the meeting each year.

Stan Stalnaker, founding director of the social network and digital currency company, explained: “Riqco and Kion are a key part of our experience team and perform many functions within Hub Culture focused on making our client experiences better.

“In this case they and others in our group did help assist Greta and the activists, as large numbers of press and participants required a bit of help to manage flow.”

Mr Stalnaker explained that neither Hub Culture or the two Bermudians were hired as protection for Ms Thunberg; a 17-year-old from Sweden who has gained a huge international following by her efforts to tackle climate change, or the Fridays for Future movement, sparked by her campaign. He added: “We were simply the host for their press conference in Davos and part of many people who participated and helped in the march.”

A video uploaded to YouTube by the AFP News Agency showed Mr Hassell, of Pembroke, in front of Ms Thunberg and other campaigners during a “school strike” march on the final day of the WEF meeting last Friday.

He and others helped to keep photographers and other members of the media at a safe distance from the young protesters.

Mr Stalnaker added: “I do think that Hub Culture’s global activities like Davos present meaningful opportunities for young Bermudians working with us.

“Both Kion and Riqco started with us as young support and have become a part of the global Hub Culture family — with cool opportunities to learn and participate with us around the world as a result.”

Mr Knights, 22, of Hamilton Parish, had taken part in the event in previous years.

The Rosewood Bermuda bellman, who is in his final year studying marketing at Solent University, Southampton, in the UK, said today: “My experience of Davos was truly a wonderful thing to accomplish for someone of my demographic.

“A young black Bermudian travelling to the Swiss Alps to protect Time’s person of the year and climate activist Greta Thunberg is truly an opportunity that doesn’t come often.

“This was my third year in Davos and I’m glad I was finally able to leave my mark on such a globalised event.

“I look forward to next year’s and let’s make it even better.”

The Hub Culture-hosted press conference included climate activists Isabelle Axelsson and Loukina Tille, both from Switzerland, Vanessa Nakate, from Uganda, and Luisa Neubauer, from Germany, as well as Ms Thunberg.

Ms Nakate explained that she was part of group that camped in tents to demonstrate they were prepared to leave their “comfort zones”.

She said at the press conference: “It is time for all of you to leave your comfort zones, because it is the uncomfortable things that we will do that will be able to save the planet.

“If it’s uncomfortable for us to give up the fossil fuels, that will be what will save our planet.

“You have seen and ignored sufferings of different kinds of people, you have chosen the things to report, but it is time to report stories from every part of the world, because people are suffering from every corner of the world.”

Ms Thunberg added: “We need to understand the urgency of the situation and we need to see this from a holistic point of view.

She concluded: “Before we came here, we had a few demands for this WEF, and those demands have been completely ignored, but we expected nothing less because ... as long as the science is being ignored, as long as the facts are not being taken into account and as long as the situation is not being treated as a crisis, then world and business leaders can, of course, continue to ignore the situation. And they don’t have to do anything, because they are not being held accountable.”

UPDATE: This article has been updated to include comments from Mr Knights.