I have watched as a nation’s emotions kept building, anxiety reaching a fever pitch. Cries for justice rang loud and a demand for good police work, the utmost importance. We all held our breath as we waited for Bert Vasquez to be charged, fearing that he would walk away “as usual” prompting protest marches sending a clear message of “No! Not this time!” And the police came through. He was charged.
But that wasn’t the end, rather it is the beginning. Just like the public feared he wouldn’t even be charged, now it fears he won’t be convicted. But instead of putting pressure on the police by standing together and making the effort to ensure that he is convicted, instead of helping the police and participating in the process of justice, we have people allowing their fear and lack of faith to derail justice in a most egregious way. Having convinced themselves that because of his family name and influence he will not be convicted, they are calling for vigilantism. One of these people is my own partner, Aria Lightfoot. Yes, Aria. I am calling you out. So sue me.
Take a look at her Facebook status posted a few days ago:
“All you people of waiting for civility and the justice system to condemn this monster among us, question: how do you convict a well connected criminal in a society that doesn’t prosecute well connected criminals? Do we wait for the system to become fair as our children continue to fall victim? Do we wait until personally affected to become angry? All you proponents of fair play how do you get rid of a unprosecutable monster from your midst?”
At first, I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, so I simply asked: “What are you inciting here?” She responded with a pretty mild answer saying she was just looking for solutions but as the conversation became more involved and other people put their two cents in, it became clear what was being said. We should kill Bert Vasquez and not bother with the process of justice, after all it is a “joke” as one person said. So I sarcastically said: “Well let’s just kill him and get it over with! Goddammit! Screw the justice system. Let’s just be as evil as he is! Who needs rules?” Unfortunately, some people thought I was serious and concurred. No biggie. Next time, I’ll be more clear and put *sarcasm next to a statement intended as such.
Further down Aria makes her point very clear, much to my concern and disappointment: “ I guess people don’t realize that he was in the “allegedly” in process of violently sexually violating another child when he was caught. Do I need a jury to assure me he is guilty. Probably not! And victims are really afraid to come forward in this case because of who he is. So I ask all the proponents of fair play. Give me a solution Please because I feel this monster will walk and he will be one of several that continue to plague our country until the justice system catches up or people take matters in their own hands. What does a society do to protect itself?” Having a jury convict a person accused of anything is NOT for the assurance of his guilt but rather an exercise in justice, you know, that process we need to make sure INNOCENT people don’t go to jail?
I get it. You don’t believe that it will happen. It hasn’t many times. And many murderers and rapists walked free of consequences because of their status in society; bribes paid to key players; intimidation of witnesses; lost evidence because of incompetence and gross mishandling. I GET IT! As other people challenged Aria to clarify her position, she kept saying she was only asking for a solution but when given them, she was adamant that families of victims couldn’t wait for the system to change and asked basically what are we to do in the meantime? She suggested that these “monsters” will walk and plague us if we don’t take matters into our own hands. What does that mean Aria? Kill everybody we “know” is guilty? Remember the poor taxi guy everybody “knew” was the murderer? HE WAS INNOCENT. What would have happened if society had decided to “take matters into their own hands”? How would you have felt if society had killed this man and come to find out it was someone else? How is that a “solution”?
Let’s make something clear hear. Your statement on Facebook was insulting and condescending. Just because everyone isn’t out there screaming about justice or waving a noose around, doesn’t mean they are not as passionate as you, or as concerned or as “affected”. We just choose to do it in a different way and there is no reason we as a society can’t do both. Protests serve a purpose. It is a time to vent. It is a time to feel connected with others. It is a time to bring attention to an issue of great concern. BUT it is merely the beginning of anything. Protests in and of themselves do little to change anything. They can prompt change but the change will be brought about people who take the time to write proposals, present them and have others vote them into policy, law etc. So, killing Bert Vasquez takes care of one person and “a” situation for just a brief moment. The system will still be broken and others will then continue to “get away”. You will basically have NOT affected change and you most certainly will NOT have come up with a solution. Rather, what about the other issues you have now created? Liiiiiiiiike: WHAT ARE WE TEACHING OUR CHILDREN? Where the hell are your beliefs in god now? What kind of god is he/she who allows YOU to kill but not others? Have you thought of what kind of reputation this will give to Belize? How does that kind of behaviour influence investors? TOURISTS??? And lastly, since we seem to have forgotten her: what the hell does this do for Jasmine’s memory? She was a Girl Scout. She worked with her father in her community. Everyone who knew her, liked her. DO YOU HONESTLY THINK THIS IS WHAT SHE WOULD HAVE WANTED? I can emphatically tell you “No!” She was about helping people, not turning them into hateful, demonic beasts seeking vengeance in her name.
So you asked for solutions. You are not going to like the answer but tough. You will help undo the damage by advocating for new legislation and abolishment of defunct, unjust old ones. You will inspire others to seek education in areas critical to justice system. You will demand that proper funding is allocated to fighting crime so that we will get better equipment and facilities aimed at proper gathering and storing of evidence. You will show your support for the hard working officers who put their lives on the line by participating in fund raising efforts and cooperating wherever needed. That means calling the police when a crime is committed, appearing in court when you are called as a witness and teaching yourself and your kids the law and ABIDING THOSE LAWS. You will demand that investigations are made into allegations of misconduct, police brutality and corruption. You will exercise patience and serve as an example of calm, well thought out convictions. You will be a symbol of hope in yourself and Belizeans, that we know the right thing to do and that we will do the right thing. And you will start by reining in your rhetoric and realizing that you have to stop being irresponsible with your words. You need to realize your power. When you do, maybe you can start being the change you keep demanding everyone else makes.
*FYI: “Incitement” comes under “Effecting a Public Mischief” which comes under ‘Perverting the Course of Justice” which comes under “OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE” punishable by up to life imprisonment…. yeah…I would say getting people to murder Bert Vasquez falls right under all that………