Bahamas cautions citizens visiting the US mainland

In the wake of a week of heightened racial tensions across America, the Commonwealth of the Bahamas has issued a travel warning on Friday to citizens preparing to visit the United States.

In its July 8 statement, the Bahamian Foreign Ministry’s advisory reads:

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration has taken a note of the recent tensions in some American cities over shootings of young black males by police officers.  At the commencement of the Independence holiday weekend, many Bahamians will no doubt use the opportunity to travel, in particular to destinations in the United States.  We wish to advise all Bahamians traveling to the US but especially to the affected cities to exercise appropriate caution generally. In particular young males are asked to exercise extreme caution in affected cities in their interactions with the police. Do not be confrontational and cooperate.  If there is any issue please allow consular offices for The Bahamas to deal with the issues. Do not get involved in political or other demonstrations under any circumstances and avoid crowds.”

Friday’s advisory follows two episodes in which police officers fatally shot two unarmed males in separate incidents in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Falcon Heights, Minnesota.

Alton Sterling was shot and killed in Baton Rogue when stopped after police determined he fit the description of a man who had allegedly threatened another with a gun; Philando Castile was killed outside Minneapolis during a routine traffic stop.

The Bahamian travel warning also follows the assassination of five Dallas police officers by an ex-Army reserve member on Thursday evening.

Perspective

While the Commonwealth of the Bahamas is fully within its right to take all necessary steps to inform potential travelers of U.S. law, customs and expectations for tourists and to alert its citizens of potential dangers abroad, this advisory appears to be more rooted in retribution than a sincere alert to possible hazards Bahamians may face in the States.

Bahamian officials have complained about previous U.S. travel warnings at the Bahamas.

The U.S. has issued travel warnings to American tourists to the Bahamas of late.  The most recent advisory occurred in 2015 over an upward trajectory in violent crimes committed against foreigners visiting the Bahamas and follows the murder of an American tourist in 2013.

Subsequently, the American government issued its 2015 travel advisory only after the UK and Canada warned its citizens in response to a string of robberies reported in areas frequented by tourists and of which tourists were victims.

While the police departments in Baton Rouge and Falcon Heights sort out both tragic episodes, it is important to note both Mr. Sterling and Mr. Castile had criminal records, particularly Mr. Sterling, who owned a lengthy police record and resisted arrest, and both appear to have refused lawful commands from police.

Where the Bahama’s advisory is unerring is the allusion to avoid confrontation and encourage cooperation with police should interaction with law enforcement arise.

Perhaps the travel warning from the tropical paradise will serve as a reminder to a handful of U.S. elected officials the value of occasionally offering public reminders to citizens to obey police officers instead of reflexively condemning law enforcement for doing their job.

 

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