News

‘Reject Rizzuto’ protest returns to US Consulate

  • Strong feelings: protesters make their point for the second time this week at the US Consulate in Devonshire yesterday (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Message to power: protesters at the US Consulate (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Message to power: protesters at the US Consulate (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Message to power: protesters at the US Consulate (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Message to power: protesters at the US Consulate (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Message to power: protesters at the US Consulate (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
  • Message to power: protesters at the US Consulate (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Protesters returned to the United States Consulate to campaign against the appointment of a controversial contributor to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

About 50 people took part in the demonstration yesterday against Lee Rizzuto Jr as US Consul to the island.

Participants displayed placards and chanted slogans against the appointment, as well as institutional racism and police violence against ethnic minorities in the US.

The turnout was smaller than a protest on Monday, but activist Kirstin White said a petition against the appointment had received more than 35,000 signatures in the past three days.

Ms White said: “We want to send a message to the Governor, because in this case the UK is the receiving state and we want them to turn down the appointment.”

She added that some had claimed the role of US Consul meant little, but that the office could have a major impact on the lives of Bermudians.

Ms White said: “This man controls the visas that our students have. He controls the stop list. Some of us have friends and family who cannot travel internationally.

“Last year I had a situation where one of my best friends was not able to travel overseas for an emergency treatment, and she died.

“I ran around the island for days trying to get someone to sign her stop list waiver, trying to get someone to pay attention, and I was told in no uncertain terms by a friend at the US Consulate that it’s different now because of Trump and there would be no sympathy, there would be no compassion.”

She added that Bermudians had a moral right to have a say in who held the job, even if there was no legal right.

Ms White highlighted the work of Bermudian activists such as Mary Prince, a prominent anti-slavery campaigner, and the Progressive Group, which organised the successful theatre boycotts in 1959.

She said: “It’s a right we have to cry for and argue for and yell for, and I’m going to do it today and tomorrow and every day until we are heard.”

Mr Rizzuto was announced as the replacement for Constance Dierman, a veteran State Department diplomat, after the US Senate refused to confirm him in the post of Ambassador to Barbados.

The beauty products tycoon gave $449,000 to Mr Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign political action committee and made headlines in America after he shared “conspiracy theories and unfounded attacks” about the President’s political opponents on Twitter in the run-up to the election.

Ms White said the demonstration also supported the Black Lives Matter protests that have sprung up around the world in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minnesota last week.

She got a round of applause when she broke the news to demonstrators that all four officers involved in the arrest of Mr Floyd had now been charged, one with second-degree murder and three with aiding and abetting murder.

Charges against Derek Chauvin, who held Mr Floyd down with a knee on his neck for more than eight minutes, had been increased from third-degree murder to second-degree murder.

Ms White said the appointment of Mr Rizzuto and the antiracism protests were linked because Mr Trump’s right-wing, divisive politics had emboldened racists.

Ms White added: “For those of us who have seen people walking around the island in Make America Great Again hats and shirts, it’s not a great feeling.”

Police blocked off a section of Middle Road, Devonshire, outside the consulate until about 6pm to allow the demonstration to take place.