Trinidad: Cops tear-gas protestors in Port of Spain

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Trinidad: Cops tear-gas protestors in Port of Spain
A Guard and Emergency Officer gives a signal to a colleague during a protest at Pioneer Drive, Sea Lots, yesterday.
A Guard and Emergency Officer gives a signal to a colleague during a protest at Pioneer Drive, Sea Lots, yesterday.

(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) — As citizens went to sleep on Tuesday night uneasy and unsure of what yesterday’s dawn would bring, the country initially awoke to a sense of calm and quiet. But this did not last for long as residents from Beetham and Sea Lots joined together to stage what was initially called a peaceful protest in Port-of-Spain.

While one at Sea Lots was broken up to an extent, some of them left to go into the city where they joined a protest which the police used tear gas to disperse.

Earlier yesterday, the move by Sea Lots residents to march into Port-of-Spain around noon was thwarted by vigilant police officers who warned them that anyone found to be in groups of more than 25 would be breaching the Public Health Ordinance and would be charged as a result.

Ornella Greaves

Following an hour-long stand-off with officers of the Guard and Emergency Branch (GEB) and the Riot Squad at Pioneer Drive – some of the residents opted to return to their homes and left on foot in groups of 25. However, some others remained scattered along Pioneer Drive, waiting on officers to leave the scene.

The confrontation at Pioneer Drive began when officers armed with transparent riot shields formed a human barricade and blocked the roadway preventing protestors from advancing further.

A senior officer used a loud-speaker to warn the residents, “Not today, go home.” Despite this warning, the combat-ready officers were forced to adopt a military stance as several missiles were hurled at them from a nearby house. The threatening move prompted several officers to search the premises while other officers moved to intercept residents as they emerged from along the Sea Lots waterfront and sought to join those who had been blocked at Pioneer Drive.

Insisting they were not about burning debris and blocking roads as they did on Tuesday, the hundreds of young men who were armed with placards claimed while yesterday was about peace and love, it was also to protest the tragic death of Beetham resident Ornella Greaves.

Greaves, a 30-year-old mother of five who was pregnant, was among three people shot around 10 am at Beetham Gardens on Tuesday as she recorded the fiery protests being staged by residents and other demonstrators in her area. Greaves later died.

Tuesday’s protests were triggered as a result of Saturday’s killing of Joel Jacob, Noel Diamond and Israel Clinton by police in Second Caledonia, Morvant, by police officers.

Several of the men who spoke with Guardian Media voiced their displeasure with the cockroach analogy used by Police Commissioner Gary Griffith to refer to those in the communities who were engaged in criminal activities.

Even as yesterday’s scene was unfolding at Sea Lots, elsewhere in the capital – protestors from Nelson Street were marching through the streets demanding justice for all those killed by the police.

As close to 100 people marched through Port-of-Spain and headed for the Red House where Parliament was in session, bearing placards and chanting “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” officers fired tear gas at the crowd to get them to disperse.

As many pulled clothing over their eyes and mouths to protect themselves, others directly affected ran into stores as they begged for help and water to wash their faces. The resultant action led to many businesses closing immediately as fears of looting spread.

Meanwhile, the only indicators of Tuesday’s protests that remained in Morvant and Laventille were piles of burnt-out rubble as residents and soldiers cleared the streets.

An early morning attempt by demonstrators along the Cocorite Main Road, Diego Martin, to resume protesting by seting fire to rubble was quickly quelled by officers who were able to douse the fire quickly and disperse the protestors.

As Guardian Media drove along the Laventille Old Road near Mapp Trace, residents were hard at work clearing the still-smouldering debris that lay across the roadway.

A young man who declined to identify himself said, “We just cleaning up the road now, everybody have to do a part.”

However, he stressed, “We only wanted our voices to be heard, we want justice because they killing out we blacks.”

Pointing to two jeeps filled with officers that drove onto an empty lot of land behind him as he spoke, the resident claimed, “We have to hope and pray for the best.”

Asked if they intended to continue with the actions of the previous day, he said no, adding, “Nah, no more protests again. Right now, we cleaning up the neighborhood and is peace and love, that’s all we want. We want justice but we not getting that but today (yesterday) is something different.”

Between 10.30 am and 11.30 am yesterday, soldiers were busy removing debris which had been strewn across intersections at Duncan, Duke, Prince and Nelson Streets on Tuesday.

Although equipment owned by the T&T Defence Force was used in the exercise, the rubbish was placed in a truck owned by the Port-of-Spain City Corporation driven by a soldier as corporation workers remained fearful about going into certain areas yesterday.

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