Sheriff St vigil condemns assault on family
Groups endorse call for suspension of club licences
Stabroek News
March 31, 2007

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In condemnation of Monday's robbery and assault of a family of four outside a Sheriff Street nightclub, the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) yesterday held a one-hour vigil outside the club which saw a turnout of about 35 persons.

It has also repeated its call for the suspension of licences of all nightclubs on that street and 41 other organizations have endorsed the call.

The Mothers in Black, which holds monthly protests outside Parliament, was in solidarity with the GHRA and in addition to protesting over the deaths of their loved ones on the roads, had a banner condemning the attack on the family.

Some motorists passing in the area also voiced their concern over the incident and lent their support to the protestors.

About 20 minutes after its midday start, a man attempted to disturb the vigil by saying that the family should not have been in the club, especially the 16-year-old girl, who he stated should "have been home with her books".

While Stabroek News was there, public-spirited citizens uplifted placards and joined the line of protestors who were standing on both sides of Sheriff Street. In a flyer handed out to persons passing the GHRA said that the most common reaction to hearing about the attack on the family is disbelief.

"Three women were stripped, beaten, robbed and sexually assaulted by a gang of men while a man was stabbed and robbed. This took place in full view of a large number of passive by-standers. Not a single person came to their assistance. The taxi-driver refused to take the assaulted people to the hospital before being given an earring. No one called the police."

GHRA said that while women of all races are vulnerable to sexual assault in Guyana it is believed that this "depraved behaviour" occurr-ed because the family is Amerindian.

While the mob nature of the incident breaks new ground, GHRA said, it is encouraged by low levels of convictions and legal procedures calculated to drive away sexually assaulted women from the courts.

GHRA called for those responsible for the attack to be brought to justice. "The police force must receive this message in as many ways as we devise. The callous taxi driver should be named and shamed. The entertainment industry in particular and everyone who promotes women as sex objects must be put on notice that there will be a price to pay... As a first step in this direction, we are demanding the suspension of all the Sheriff Street nightclub licences until justice is delivered in the incident. There are no innocent bystanders to sexual violence," the GHRA said.

When GHRA had first called for the suspension of the Sheriff Night Club, where the victims say the incident started, its owner Rajpattie Bacchus denied that the family was ever there. She said that victims got as far as the door but left without entering the nightclub. The victims however stuck to their original story.

On Monday around 2 am, the family had just left the Sheriff Street nightspot and had boarded a taxi when a gang of more than 20 men descended on them and in full view of the public assaulted, beat and robbed them before walking calmly away. Minutes before, the lone male in the assaulted family had accidentally spilled a drink on a group of men sitting nearby and the men demanded that he replace it and buy extra drinks. He refused to buy the extra drinks.

When the family left the nightclub, the men followed them outside and pulled them out of a taxi. They pulled guns, broke a bottle, stabbed the male in the group to his right ear and assaulted two of the women, one of whom was only 16 years old. The gang later made off with $100,000.

According to the family, many persons were on Sheriff Street at the time but no one rendered any assistance. After they were robbed, beaten and assaulted, they hailed a taxi to go to the hospital and the driver demanded money before making the trip. One of the women took off her earrings and paid him with them.

The police at the Kitty Police Station were later informed about the incident and they are said to be looking into the matter.