Residents face off in fiery protests

RESIDENTS of Picton Road, Laventille, burned debris during a protest yesterday, crying police brutality.

The residents began their action after alleging police threw a Molotov cocktail into a shed in which several residents used to store gardening tools. The shed was located up a hill, adjacent to two large water tanks located off Picton Road.

Young men claimed when they came out to extinguish the fire, they were shot at by the police. They pointed out several bullet holes in at least five homes which they claimed were fired by the police.

Around 7 a.m., the men responded by dragging several items, including derelict refrigerators and dumpsters, to various points along Picton Road and setting them afire.

A Molotov cocktail was also thrown on the bonnet of a police vehicle, and officers resorted to firing shots in the air in a bid to restore order.

The police denied the allegations and promised a thorough investigation into the matter.

Some of the men said between 3 and 4 a.m. yesterday, a group of officers patrolled through Picton Road, Laventille, from Block Eight, and ordered a number of people who were on the road to get back inside their homes.

Dale Mitchell, one of the residents, said a lot of Muslims in the community would come out and start to pray at that hour. He said the police confronted these people, and it was during this confrontation that one of the officers threw something in a shed.

“The shed burn down and they said don’t out no fire, and if we want, we could make a report in the station. We decided to out the fire because all the CEPEP (Community-based Environmental Protection and Enhancement Programme) people had thousands of dollars worth of tools in there,” Mitchell said.

However, he said they all had to run back into their homes when shots were fired at them by the police.

Mitchell said they eventually put out the blaze by bursting a nearby pipe to get water.

Another resident, Marlie Pierre, said, “This is just an example of oppression. They would come and see we playing football and mash up the post…they does just do what they want. They want war, but we don’t want war. We want to live and raise we children and to work and do what we need to do.”

While reporters were on the scene around 10.30 a.m., a loud crash was heard as another protest began again.

“Wha allyuh could do? The media and them here,” taunted one protester as he walked with a plastic container of gasoline to throw on a new fire which was started by the residents.

A corporal grabbed a man’s shirt as he was about to drag a gate to throw into the fire but when the officer turned his back, he picked it up and threw it in. The officer held his hand.

“You see what we does have to go through,” the officer told the Express.

Several other fires were started after by residents along Picton Road as they even set an old Nissan Sunny car alight. The police’s response this time was much stronger, with the Police Guard and Emergency Branch called out.

Officers from the Fire Service’s Port of Spain headquarters and Port of Spain City Corporation workers were later called to the scene to douse the fires and clear the debris.

In a release last evening, the Police Service said ten persons were arrested during the protest action, adding an investigation had been launched into the incident.

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