CARICOM weighs in on treatment of St Vincent ambassador by New York police

Reuters news agency reported that, in a letter to US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, Bart said the incident occurred on Wednesday after St Vincent’s envoy, Camillo Gonsalves, stepped out of his car. Gonsalves is the son of the prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves.

Bart said in the letter, which was obtained by Reuters on Friday, that Gonsalves walked past a police barrier to take the elevator to his office.

“On his way to the elevator, he was shouted at and confronted by a police officer, who rudely questioned his action and then grabbed him by the neck and shoulder, displaying undue physical harassment against the ambassador,” Bart wrote.

Under international agreements, the United States commits to recognizing diplomatic immunity from arrest and prosecution for accredited foreign diplomats.

Ambassador Gonsalves said in a statement last week that he was returning to his office after lunch and stepped out of his official car, through a barricade in front of the building — as he has done for the past five years — when he was confronted by a New York City police officer, who shouted: “What do you think the barricades are there for?”

Gonsalves said he walked to the elevator and the officer ran into the building, “grabbed me by my neck and shoulders, spun me around and said, ‘Didn’t you see me talking to you’.”

Gonsalves said he replied: “You couldn’t have been talking to me.”

He said the officer then demanded identification. “I said, `Why? Am I under arrest?’ He said, `Well you are now.”

“At that point he handcuffed me, with assistance from other officers he called as a backup,” Gonsalves said.

He said other ambassadors with offices in the building — including the envoys of Gambia, Dominica and St Lucia as well as his own staff — came into the lobby and began to tell the officer he was in the wrong.

The New York Police Department presented a different version of events.

The New York police countered by saying that Gonsalves refused to identify himself after pushing past a security barrier intended to protect Israel’s diplomatic headquarters in New York City from attack.

Paul Browne, an NYPD spokesman, said Gonsalves stepped out of his car in front of a double police barrier in front of the building where his office is located. The Israeli mission and consulate are housed in the same building.

Gonsalves moved the barriers and walked through, ignoring orders from a police officer not to move the barriers and to stop, Browne said. Gonsalves refused to stop or to identify himself. He was arrested for disorderly conduct and handcuffed near the elevators inside the building.

“He was subsequently identified and released at the scene,” Browne said.

The police ramped up security at Israel’s diplomatic headquarters in New York this month after a deadly attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse, France. The police did the same for synagogues and other Jewish institutions across the city.

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