Business shutdown for Andrea

(Trinidad Express) – Close to 500 local businesses will be shutting down operations today in protest of Andrea Bharatt’s murder while her funeral service takes place.

Today there will be a blackout of businesses to mourn Bharatt, 22, and to support her family as well as in solidarity with all victims of crime.

The Express compiled a list of almost 470 businesses, the majority of which are small and medium-sized enterprises that will shut their doors today in Bharatt’s memory.

Business owners said yesterday they are also taking a stance in solidarity and are calling for protection of the country’s women.

Those participating included retailers, vendors, beauty technicians, auto shops, electronics dealers and restaurants.

Many of these businesses posted notices that they would be closed today on their social media pages.

They said measures must be taken to protect women in Trinidad and Tobago.

One business—Tropical Express Couriers—stated it stands in opposition to any form of abuse and violence, especially those against women, which have become a serious problem in the country.

“Today, we stand in solidarity, at a tipping point and we must increase awareness, inspire action and fuel culture change. We will be closing all branches on February 12, 2021 to indicate our commitment to fighting violence against women,” it stated.

On Wednesday, Starlite Pharmacy was one of the first businesses to state it will close today.

It posted that it will shut its doors in protest of the increasing violence towards women and increasing levels of crime towards citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.

“How many more deaths are considered acceptable before those in authority take a stand? How much longer must substandard performance pass for acceptable standards?” Starlite asked in an online post.

“The eight per cent crime detection rate is too low, it is unacceptable and change must happen. It will not be business as usual for us this Friday.

“Rest in peace Andrea, and all others who have innocently lost their lives,” it added.

Bharatt, a court clerk at the Arima Magistrates’ court, was kidnapped on January 29, 2021 after entering a taxi with fake “H” registration plates.

Her body was found down a precipice at the Heights of Aripo on February 4, 2021.

Her murder has incited a strong movement from civil society.

Over the past week there have been candlelight vigils across the nation every night as people came out in their numbers calling for change.

The protests and vigils have not only focused on Bharatt but also teenager Ashanti Riley who was also murdered and all women who have been victims of crime in the country.

Some of the calls for the protection of women include the legalisation of pepper spray and non-lethal weapons, the regularisation of public transportation, resourcing of the Forensic Science Centre, changes to the criminal justice system to ensure swift justice and no bail for people on rape and kidnapping charges.

The vigils have also taken place overseas as Joy’s Roti Shop in Lauderhill, Florida hosted a vigil.

Several Trinidadians residing abroad expressed that they too will be staying home from work in solidarity of victims of crime in Trinidad and Tobago.

Will it trigger change?

Founding member of the Network of NGOs of Trinidad and Tobago for the Advancement of Women Hazel Brown said change will come only if there is political action.

“I am numb, we can’t keep doing the same thing over and over and expect to get a different result,” she told the Express yesterday.

She said there was no organised mobilising force in civil society and that was needed to push for change.

“Organise, not just show up with a candle, organise on your street, in your house, in your school, in your church, organise for specific action which is measurable and which people can make a commitment to do,” she said. “Organisation calls for leadership, it calls for political will, so you can’t go out there and march and light candles and then vote the same way. It doesn’t work.”

She said there must be new ways of addressing the trauma facing society.

“I have been saying for the longest while, violence is learned behaviour, so if you want to change their violent behaviour we have to get to the cause at which they are learning that violence is going to satisfy whatever distress they are in.

We are all in this distress and we are not admitting that and therefore will blame somebody for what happened,” she said.

Brown said crime prevention starts with loving children and nurturing them.

“We have to look at those children on your street, the ones in your school and in your church and try as far as possible to show some caring and love for children so that they don’t learn to ease their stress and trauma with violence,” she said.

Asked if she believes there will be change, Brown responded: “Not now, not until there is organised political action because showing up with a candle is an emotional response to the trauma people are experiencing themselves.”

Don’t make it political

One of Bharatt’s relatives, Julie Sally, urged yesterday that her death not be politicised.

“(Today) is not about politics, rest down your yellow and red please, respect Andrea and her family this is not political. ABSOLUTELY NO Race NO Politics here. Unite together we stand for Crime,” she posted.

There will be a motorcade to Port of Spain “to send our final farewell for ‘Our Angel’ (Saint and to give support and comfort to the families of the Victims who suffered in similar crimes and who are standing with us in our grief for our beloved Andrea,” Sally stated.

“The Bharatt family wishes to extend our heartfelt gratitude to all of the officers, the entire team and our hard working (Police) Commissioner Gary Griffith. We commend them all for the continued support and services,” she added.

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