YouTuber back on streets after week in jail – Chris Must goes on

Canadian YouTube vlogger Chris
Canadian YouTube vlogger Chris "Chris Must List" Hughes during an interview at Newsday's Pembroke Street, Port of Spain office on June 4. - Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

EVEN WHEN he has a sedition case pending before the courts and after spending six days in a prison cell, which he described as "hell," Canadian vlogger Christopher "Chris Must List" Hughes says he is ready to resume making videos in this country. He maintained he did nothing wrong and that he will not plead guilty to the sedition charge.

The 45-year-old travel vlogger was arrested and charged last week, after being in Trinidad and Tobago for several weeks documenting gang culture and violence. He also had general sightseeing and cultural vlogs but the views on those were significantly fewer.

He was released from the Besson Street police station in the night on June 3 after his court appearance earlier that day before Master Margaret Sookraj-Goswami.

His former attorney Criston J Williams withdrew from representing Hughes and opted to provide "hospitality" until June 6, when Hughes is set to return to court.

Hughes posted a photo of himself giving a thumbs-up on YouTube in the night on June 3 saying, "Freedom at last!!! I’m free on bail, thank you for all the love and support from my subscribers around the globe. I love you all! I appreciate you all!"

That post had over 3,000 likes and 700-plus comments.

One TT commenter said, "As a Trini, I am angry and embarrassed. Glad you are out and hope your court case is swift and just."

A Guyanese fan said, "This is exactly what the people who you interviewed was talking about. It's the same discrimination they face. You not only heard their cries you've now experienced it yourself. Hope your case is dismissed. Love from Guyana."

Hughes's family had been updating his fans on his YouTube channel before his release.

All of his Trinidad and Tobago videos, including non-gang-related ones, were made private on YouTube after his arrest. However, after his release, he re-publicised one of his videos, titled Port of Spain Peace Walk: 'A Mother's Cry' Demands End to Gang Violence. It had over 61,000 views.

There is also a change.org petition in support of Hughes titled Family’s plea to free Chris Must List from Trinidad.

Over 1,700 people have signed so far.

Trinidad and Tobago jail not nice

In an interview in the evening on June 4 at Newsday's Pembroke Street, Port of Spain newsroom, Hughes said while he felt "very good" at that moment, the past week had not been easy.

"I want to act like I'm a strong man, but no doubt, six days in confinement will definitely test your mental abilities."

He said he had only been in police custody once, about ten years ago, for flying a drone in Cuba, which he did not know was illegal. He was detained for 13 days for questioning in that incident, but was not charged.

On his prison experience in TT, he said while he had no complaints about the staff there, as they were all "extraordinarily kind," the cell was not well maintained.

"From a physical maintenance (perspective) it's hell...It's very hot and sweaty; it took a few days to get a shower for the first time."

He added that there was a strong stench of urine and faeces at all times.

"The cleaner gives us a broom to clean up...I asked if we can mop (urine off) the ground and they said, 'Only if there's no prisoners does the floor get mopped.'" The worker, he added, teased that it could remain like that for weeks or months.

He said while there was a toilet, there was no toilet paper or running water.

"It looks like people just smeared faeces on the wall...It's like an animal's cage. I don't know how else to put it."

But Hughes made it clear he "did not expect a five-star hotel.

"The hardest part for me is I'm a father of three, so every time I close my eyes, no matter how much I tried to think of, like, wonderful things and playing with my children, the thing that would cross my mind over and over again is (by the time I get to return home) my children are like, five years older."

He said he has been in contact with his wife of 15 years and his children since his release, and they are "taking it one day at a time." Hughes has two sons, 15 and 18, and a nine-year-old daughter.

Asked if he has any regrets about the videos he did here, he said no.

He said TT is the 128th country he has been to and he is "very proud" of the content he creates.

"I feel like I'm giving a voice to the people that are not often heard.

"In my eyes, I'm not guilty of any crime. I will not be pleading guilty. I'm ready to continue on with this battle (and) I have great hopes the judicial system here will find me innocent..."

'Proud of my work'

He added, "I don't look back and say I should have changed some things, (because) I don't feel I've done anything wrong."

Many on social media have questioned why he did not wait until he left TT to upload the videos he filmed here.

In response to this, he said he loves being in contact with people in the countries he visits in real time.

"I'm very proud of the work I do, so I want to get it up right away."

He said this then "opens up new doors" for new opportunities and friendships, as people contact him to visit other places.

"The reason I do this and document my life is to share experiences and create new experiences, and that wouldn't be as possible if I waited three months to upload."

Asked about making his TT videos private, he said he did so willingly and no one, including the police, asked him to do it.

"During this whole investigation, I thought it would be respectful of me to just ask my wife in Toronto to remove the videos until further notice."

He added those videos should be public again over the next few days.

He urged tourists not to let this uncommon experience deter them from visiting the country he has now "fallen in love with.

"The first question I asked (when being questioned by police) was if I would be able to come back to this country. It's a really big concern to me. I've fallen in love with Trinidad and the people. I'd hate to think I'm not allowed back."

He told Newsday before this interview, he was buying new cameras and recording equipment and by June 5, "I'll definitely be hitting 'Record' and filming what I see.

"I'm going to continue filming and documenting my life."

'I want to return to Trinidad and Tobago'

"This is more than me getting views. The love I get on the streets, the encouragement...It's not a simple, 'Hi.' People are stopping and crying on my shoulders and telling me their frustrations, and I want to document that for myself, even if no one sees the videos. It's a memory for me and it's a part of my life."

He said local media have been calling him a "gang journalist," but he has several other non-gang-related vlogs.

A lover of culture, he said, "I'm going to shoot content that's cultural to the location that I enjoy filming.

"I can't wait to get a camera back in my hand."

In addition to what he will film until his return to court, he said if he is allowed to return to TT after this ordeal, "You have my word this is a country I'm going to continue coming back to...

"I don't feel like I broke any rules. I'm going to continue filming the content I normally film."

However, he said this has also been a learning experience for him.

"I have learnt (that) as a creator, I am responsible for what the people in my videos say. I have to put precaution into who I talk to and what they talk about, but I will continue to film the same kind of content I've been filming.

"As a man, as a father who knows I don't know it all, there's definitely things I'm going to learn every day of the week and I'd be stubborn not to take that knowledge and use it for my benefit to get better."

His original plan, he said, was to stay in TT for five days, then visit Guyana and Suriname. But right now, he said, his priority is returning home to his family.

Calling himself an emotional person who is easily brought to tears, Hughes thanked all who have supported him thus far.

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"YouTuber back on streets after week in jail – Chris Must goes on"

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