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tensions Escalate From Bermuda’s Airport Redevelopment Process

By: Owain Johnston-Barnes, Simon Jones

A heated protest over the controversial airport redevelopment project turned violent yesterday, with police dousing protesters with pepper-spray and officers allegedly being assaulted.

While protesters have alleged that the officers needlessly disrupted a peaceful protest, sending at least one senior away in an ambulance, police commissioner Michael DeSilva said protesters were unlawfully obstructing police and the public.

Hundreds gathered outside the House of Assembly early yesterday morning in protest of controversial airport redevelopment plans following a call by Opposition Leader David Burt for a demonstration. While the protesters successfully prevented MPs entering the House of Assembly, tensions came to a head in the early afternoon when police made efforts to move them.

Protesters chanted and linked arms to remain in place and, during a heated altercation, police attempted to disperse them with spray. The move prompting a furious reaction from protesters, union leaders and Progressive Labour Party MPs.

People who were sprayed were seen treating themselves in the street with water and cream, while two female crowd members were helped into an ambulance. Witnesses said one woman was injured after a confrontation with police, and several officers reportedly attacked.

By 2.45pm, Speaker of the House Randy Horton announced Parliament would be postponed until next Friday and the crowds began to dissipate, although a presence remained for the rest of the afternoon.

At the height of the tension, veteran PLP MP Derrick Burgess warned police some potential demonstrators may bring ammunition.

“I would like you guys to retreat — this is going to get dirty,” he said.

“You don’t want to mess with us. There are people with ammunition; they may come here — that’s what they told me. I tried to calm them down; they will shoot. They will come.”

Mr Burgess, who emphasised to The Royal Gazette that he had tried to calm people down, later said of the standoff: “This is white supremacy at work. This is the biggest thing to happen since the 1977 riots.

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