Human rights activist accuses senator of hate speech

Human rights activist Erin Green last night lamented Senator Ranard Henfield’s use of what she labelled a homophobic slur and hate speech during a heated exchange the senator had on his Facebook page with another Facebook user.

The row stemmed from Henfield’s post on Saturday where he described a brawl he witnessed the night before at Little Caesar’s Pizza on Carmichael Road. In that post, the senator claimed he saved several patrons after a “gang of men burst in stabbing and chopping”.

Dozens of Facebook users said they were glad Henfield was safe and offered prayers.

Others lamented the incident and the level of crime in the country.

However, one Facebook user, who claimed to have also witnessed the incident, challenged Henfield’s account of the events and the role he played.

Another Facebook user asserted that Henfield and other elder statesman do not really care about Bahamians, but continue to “pretend” to.

That poster continued with a barrage of insults loaded with expletives directed at the senator and in one comment, his mother.

In response, Henfield said, “Lil fa**ots like you hide behind Facebook not realizing there’s a unit for cybercrime. Come at me and I’ll laugh. Cross the line and I am quick to notify the cybercrime unit and have SIB (Security and Intelligence Branch) track your IP address. I was keeping you engaged online long enough for them to trace you idiot. Thanks for running on. Laugh out loud.”

Several people came to Henfield’s defence and questioned why the poster was so angry.

The poster replied that his anger came from oppression and years of being fooled by “(expletive) like you, who can fool Bahamians into marching”.

Henfield’s comment was later deleted, but Greene reposted a screenshot of the senator’s comment on her Facebook page.

Speaking to Eyewitness News, she said it was obvious that it was a heated discourse and comments were made to provoke Henfield, but “there is no circumstance that should cause you to resort to homophobic and sexist slurs, particularly if you are a public figure”.

“If he wanted to go as far as indicating that he was going to engage the police, that’s fine,” she said.

“The appropriate response was to turn the comments off and disengage from the discourse, but never to resort to homophobic or sexist or ableist slurs, right.

“It’s unacceptable for anyone even given the expected or understandable anger in the moment.

“This is not acceptable speech from a member of the Upper House of the HOA, particularly after the Bahamas’ recent selection to the UN Human Rights Council…”

“He should have set an example and not resorted to slurs.”

Greene said while she believes in the heat of the moment Henfield forgot that he was engaging in a public forum, the terms he used suggests it is a part of his vocabulary.

She said it is also indicative of a deeper culture in The Bahamas, noting that leaders on both sides of the political divide have resorted to homophobic and sexist slurs in “attempts to defame or slander their political opponents.

Greene called on Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis to address what she said appears to be a culture of disregard for Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) citizens and their citizenship, and the implied disregard for other vulnerable groups in The Bahamas.

She also called on Henfield to make a public statement on the matter and apologize, saying his remark was “dangerous” and in effect was “hate speech that perpetuates or creates a less safe environment, not just for LGBTI people, but for all minority groupings and communities in the country”.

Authorities reported Sunday that they were investigating a brawl that took place at a pizza take-away on Carmichael Road on Friday around 7:30 p.m.

Police said a young man was transported to hospital and discharged, though they did not detail the nature of his injuries.