Thursday 19th, the Bromby brothers took to the air on the afternoon Everest DeCosta ‘talk show’ to put their side of the Bromby/Talbot court case. The magistrate had ruled the Bromby brothers guilty but had awarded ordered an absolute discharge. The decision was unpopular and there was widespread public comment that there was a racial bias in the decision. Amongst the feelings expressed was that the Brombys had ‘gotten off’ because they were ‘white’.
When the Bromby brothers went ‘live’ on the afternoon ‘talk show’ they set a Bermuda precedent. They used their freedom of speech to put their side to the wider court of public opinion.
Next day, Friday 20th, there was uproar in the House of Assembly. It seems that the Opposition wanted to put up a matter for debate. It appears that the Governing party disagreed with the process. The Speaker of the House – whose word is supposed to be ‘law’ in the House – was unable to achieve a satisfactory resolution of the matter. So the Opposition stalked out of the House.
Following the arcane rules of the House of Assembly, it seems that there was a problem with the ability to get something debated. Like the Bromby brothers, the Opposition took to the streets and to the air-waves to put their case to the wider court of public opinion.
If indeed, the opportunity for debate was killed, the Opposition may have won a significant victory. If the matter was killed, they’ll be able to successfully argue – for a long, long, time – that there is no real freedom of debate. The Opposition will also be able to successfully argue – for a long, long, time – that the Governing party won’t listen to dissenting views. They’ll be able to successfully argue – for a long, long, time – that constituents and voters with grievances are being shut out of the discussion process. Saturday night, the 21st, at the National Stadium, politicians and ‘Drumline’ organizers took to the stage to make grand speeches and presentations. On the eastern side of the field, the audio was not good. So whatever the politicians were saying could not be heard. The people sitting in the $20 seats got the backs of the politicians and the worst of the sound.
As the politicians waxed lyrical, saying wonderful things that not everybody could hear, the people in the $20 seats – who couldn’t hear anything at all – got impatient. They started a ‘mexican wave’. The people in the $50 seats joined in. The politicians, finding themselves ignored, seemed to come to their senses, and – finished or not – scuttled off the stage.
This was a unique display of ‘people power’. It is the first time that I have known a Bermudian crowd display what many Bermudians would describe as ‘rudeness’. That wasn’t the end of it though.
The stage layout showed that the stage had been ‘set’ for the people sitting in the $50 blue seats. It seemed that all the band performances were presented for the people in the $50 seats.
However, everybody, whether in the $20 or the $50 seats, had come to see the promised show – ‘Drumline’. The people in the $20 seats quickly cottoned on to this imbalance. First, they muttered. Then they shouted comments. Then, as individuals in the crowd recognized a common issue and common purpose, the individual feelings massed into a crowd reaction. The grumbles about watching the ‘backs’ of performances translated into a clear and loud demand that the performances should be re-shaped to include all spectators. But especially the people in the $20 seats.
This discontent, so clearly expressed, brought the Minister Dale Butler – at speed – to arrange a change. He succeeded. The last band, the Howard University Band, started its performance by playing to the $20 people. In the midst of all this though, spectators lost the performance of the Livingston College Band.
The most interesting fact was that a Bermuda crowd was acting and reacting with a common voice for a common purpose. By its actions, it was causing change – rapid change. This crowd – made up of thousands of ordinary Bermudians – learned a new lesson in power.
The crowd won’t forget it. That’s the nature of human beings.
Three interesting days. Three days watching, learning, seeing, hearing ordinary Bermudians using new powers in new ways.
The small man is flexing his muscle. Big men had better watch out.