photo: Ralph Cantave

PHILIPSBURG – The sounds of beating drums accompanied dozens of Sint Maarten residents gathered in front of the Peace Monument at the former Philipsburg Jubilee Library to protest against racial violence and discrimination.

Amongst the participants was Deputy Governor, Reynold Groeneveldt. He took the stage stating that it’s time the world changes and it’s unfortunate another death had to take place. “We all have the right to live we deserve equal opportunity, we deserve respect, we deserve equal treatment.”

The program was organized by Henry Brookson, president of the Community Aid Sentry Hill foundation. Brookson said not much motivation was need to protest after witnessing the publicized death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Brookson and organizers also talked about the death of Arubian Mitch Henriquez who was murdered by police officers in the Netherlands.

President of Parliament Rolando Brison spoke to the crowd about his experience in the Netherlands when he tried assisting an elderly white woman on the train who screamed and clutched her bag when he reached out to her. He expressed that even such a situation could have ended tragically due to the color of his skin. He said that we’re ‘the only organism on this planet that has a conscious; that has the ability to think and reflect’.

Call for equal treatment Dutch kingdom
Brison added that such a change starts at the highest level and a responsibility remains with leaders to shape the beliefs and values of a society. He called out the Netherlands for looking down on Sint Maarten and its leaders. “If our leaders at the kingdom level can’t see us as equal we could never expect our people to treat each other with compassion.”

Brookson said his efforts to inspire change will not end with this peaceful protest and to expect more from his foundation. He believes Sint Maarten should assert its freedom by being financial responsible and not have to ‘beg Holland for money’.

The foundation began its community efforts by building homes and providing household assistance for those affected by hurricane Irma. According to Brookson, The Community Aid Sentry Hill will also focus on cultural and historical education for students.