Violence in the city - CARICOM summit opening

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Re- Stabroek News/Guyana Chronicle - July 5th. 2002

Fear lingers after Wednesday's violence

On the alert: Police regularly patrolled the streets of Georgetown yesterday.
THE day after protesters stormed the Office of the President and burned down two Regent Street stores, the normally busy Regent Street was in a state of inactivity yesterday, a scene that was also evident in other areas of downtown Georgetown.

During the morning, many of the stores did not open fully. Only the entrances to the stores were opened and the heavy metal and woodwork barriers on show windows remained in place. Store owners or/and their employees kept a close eye out for more protesters who turned violent in a rampage Wednesday afternoon.

Yesterday afternoon most of the stores were locked tight and Regent Street was almost a ghost town.

Protesters set fire to the Payless Variety Store when they struck Wednesday. The building was completely burnt while not much was saved from the next door Fullworths Store.

Regent Street yesterday in stark contrast to what it's like on a regular shopping day.
What remained on the front half of the ground floor of the store was yesterday being taken away by employees at the bidding of Fullworths owner, Mr. Hardatt Persaud. What was saved was in no condition to be sold, but a good cleaning of the items would serve the employees well.

At his store yesterday, Mr. Persaud, in tears, was still shaking his head in disbelief at what happened to his store. It had stood there for the past 32 years.

Persaud estimated his losses at more than $100M and said his property and goods were tremendously underinsured.

"I don't know what I will do", he told the Chronicle.

His store next door, which kept clothes and haberdashery, was saved from the fire.

The newly opened Bounty Meat Centre was spared from the fire. However, minor damage was noticeable. During the day, workers were seen putting up plywood over the glass show windows of the store.

At the Courts store at Regent and Camp Streets, protective metal plates were placed across show windows. The store was nearly burned down Wednesday evening when protesters smashed one of the show windows and hurled an incendiary device into the store. The small fire was quickly put out.

At the Bourda Market, unlike Wednesday afternoon when almost all the stalls were locked up, a few opened up yesterday.

Around Stabroek Market, vendors were not out in their usual numbers.

On Main Street, the entire block where State House is located was restricted to vehicular traffic. State House is the official residence of President Bharrat Jagdeo.

Policemen were seen on the streets of Georgetown and at all hotels and rooming facilities housing delegates to the 23rd CARICOM Heads of Government Conference.

PNC/R says Bynoe not party member
THE main Opposition People's National Congress Reform (PNC/R) yesterday condemned Wednesday's storming of the Office of the President and the violent attack on citizens and business places which resulted from an unauthorised protest march in the city, led by a former top party member, Mr. Philip Bynoe.

At the regular weekly press briefing at the party's Congress Place headquarters in Georgetown, Chairman Mr. Robert Corbin said the protest march which began from Belladrum West Coast Berbice, was organised by the People's Solidarity Movement. He said the movement which comprises a number of concerned citizens from several villages along the East Coast Demerara, was joined by PNC/R supporters in the protest march that ended up in Georgetown, but unfortunately it was infiltrated by `criminal elements'.

During the march several persons were attacked and robbed and two of those who stormed the Presidential Complex were shot dead by Police. The protesters also set on fire two vehicles and burnt two Regent Street stores.

Corbin said Bynoe is not a member of the PNC/R and is not permitted to represent the party's interest when it comes to staging protest marches in the city.

"Anyone knowing the structure of the party will know Bynoe is not a leader within the party", he said.

According to Corbin, the group had applied to the Commissioner of Police for permission to conduct a protest march on Wednesday, but did not get a response. He said the protesters who were already organised, went ahead and proceeded to the city.

Corbin contended that because law enforcement officers were not present to monitor the march, the situation erupted into chaos.

"Notwithstanding the fact that our people are hurting, we cannot condone the death and destruction that took place (Wednesday). We wish to convey our deepest sympathy to the families of those who were killed, those injured, and who were beaten and had their business places looted and destroyed", he said.

PNC/R leader, Mr. Desmond Hoyte who returned home Wednesday night after undergoing medical check-ups in the U.S., said his party had planned to stage a four-day march which was due to begin yesterday. However, the march did not go on because up to yesterday, the Police had not responded to the application, he said.

In view of the CARICOM Summit being held in Georgetown, Hoyte said the Police would see that as the ideal circumstance to justify refusal of permission for any march.

He said the PNC/R will march whether permitted or not.

Leader of illegal protest to be charged
`That place is sacrosanct and should always be protected regardless of the costs. We would not allow that situation to be manifested again. The Office of the President must not be regarded as an ordinary office and I consider it an affront to this entire country for those elements to attempt, even attempt, to enter that building' - Police Commissioner Floyd McDonald
By Neil Marks

LEADER of the group of illegal protesters which attacked the Presidential Complex on Wednesday, Phillip Bynoe, is to be charged, Police Commissioner Floyd McDonald said yesterday, assuring such an action will not happen again.

"We acknowledge the right to protest peacefully, but we cannot and will not condone any conduct deemed at disrupting the activities of this country", McDonald declared at a news conference.

Two persons were shot dead after a group invaded the Office of the President in New Garden Street, Georgetown, and the top cop said those who survived "are lucky to be alive". Eight persons were wounded, while 17 were arrested, he said.

"That place is sacrosanct and should always be protected regardless of the costs. We would not allow that situation to be manifested again. The Office of the President must not be regarded as an ordinary office and I consider it an affront to this entire country for those elements to attempt, even attempt, to enter that building", McDonald told reporters.

He said that the Police are "well equipped" to deal with any future protests and at the same time guarantee the safety of the foreign delegates in Guyana attending the 23rd Heads of Government Conference of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), as well as all the conference venues.

McDonald said it is apparent that the tent that was erected for about a month now in front of Prime Minister Sam Hinds' residence on Main Street, Georgetown, served as a staging ground for Wednesday's protest action.

Police removed the tent on Wednesday evening, as members of the group threatened persons at the nearby Main Street Plaza Hotel and "were bold enough" to threaten to burn down the building.

"At that stage, the Police couldn't sit idly by, so we moved and dismantled the tent," he said.

An eyewitness denied claims by persons who were under the tent that Policemen beat, kicked and harassed senior citizens while dismantling the camp.

She said that at around 16:00 hrs a sizeable number of those who were protesting gathered at the site "to eat". This could be confirmed by the numerous food boxes left scattered after the tent was removed Wednesday night.

The eyewitness told the Chronicle that some of the "young men" started threatening foreign guests of the hotel. "We ain't want y'all in we country", she recalled the rugged-looking youngsters saying.

She said that as soon as law enforcement ranks turned up at the site, members of the group ran under the tent and started singing "gospels".

The lawmen retreated from the area, but the protesters again started taunting the hotel's guests, the eyewitness said, reporting that one young man came out with a gasolene tank in one hand and a shiny object in the other and threatened to burn down the hotel.

"We gon burn y'all out tonight, we gon burn y'all down to the ground", she remembered the protesters saying to persons at the hotel.

Shortly after, she said members of the Police Tactical Services Unit returned to the site and dismantled the tent, but they did not touch any of the protesters, as some of the women later claimed on television.

The protest march organised by Bynoe was illegal as the permission he sought from the Police was denied.

Several persons were beaten and robbed along the route of the protest that kicked off from the East Coast Demerara village of Golden Grove. Notably, McDonald said that two of the vehicles used in the protest action were registered in the name of the Linden Power Company with which Bynoe is affiliated.

The Police Commissioner said that the march to the city was not stopped as the Police were mindful of "much more harm" than was eventually done on Wednesday.

He said permission was not granted for it as the Police wished to concentrate its energies on the CARICOM summit and because of previous statements by Bynoe and other politicians.

McDonald did not name the other politicians, but spoke of statements they made to remove the Government and others such as "bad boy against bad boy" and "shoot and shoot back". He said these comments were misleading and triggered the "nonsensical conduct by those protesters".

Portrait: CARICOM Heads of Government posed yesterday for the official summit portrait on the lawns of State House following a luncheon hosted by President Bharrat Jagdeo (seated third from right) on the occasion of the Twenty-third Meeting of the Conference of CARICOM Heads of Government. Seated from left are Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr Keith Mitchell; President of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide; CARICOM Secretary-General, Dr Edwin Carrington; President Jagdeo; Deputy Barbados Prime Minister Billie Miller and Prime Minister of Jamaica, PJ Patterson. From left (standing) are Suriname President, Ronald Venetiaan; Prime Minister of St Lucia, Dr Kenny Anthony; Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves; Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Patrick Manning; Chief Minister of the Turks and Caicos Islands (an associate member), Derek Taylor and Prime Minister of Belize, Said Musa. Missing from the photo are Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Lester Bird; Prime Minister of the Bahamas, Perry Christie and Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis, Dr Denzil Douglas. Dominica and Montserrat are not represented at the Heads of Government summit. (Photo by Ken Moore)

The protesters who stormed the Payless Variety store on Regent Street and set it afire, also did not spare the firemen and policemen at the scene.

McDonald reported that one fireman was pulled off from a Fire Service vehicle and soundly beaten and policemen had to go to his rescue.

One policeman on the East Coast Demerara was beaten with a baseball bat and robbed of $18,000.

"He wasn't armed, luckily (for the protestors) he wasn't armed", McDonald stated, also reporting that two other policemen received serious injuries.

As the fire razed the Payless store and caught on to the Fullworth's store, some of the protesters went to the bus parks, "robbing people and creating mayhem", the Commissioner reported.

The Police had to go to the rescue of some 15 workers who were trapped inside a building on Regent Street by the protesters.

Later in the evening, two buildings - Courts Furniture Store on Regent Street and the Caribbean Chemicals building on South Road were set afire by incendiary devices hurled into them. The fires were extinguished and no major damage resulted.

McDonald said the Police will continue to maintain vigilance on the streets, noting that so far security arrangements for the CARICOM summit have run smoothly.

"We would not allow them (the protesters) to do what they like in this city or any other part of this country. Because this country belongs to all Guyanese and no one group should think that it has the right to inconvenience anyone in this society. We will maintain our vigilance and we would ensure that peace and tranquility is maintained," the Police chief stated.

Meanwhile, McDonald said that the Opposition People's National Congress Reform (PNC/R) has not been granted permission to hold any protest action. The party had applied for permission for marches yesterday right on to Sunday.

July 4th. 2002
Police on high alert after violence
-- two shot dead as group invades Office of the President compound

THE station wagon which was set afire at the junction of New Garden and Regent Streets.
THE Police were last night on high alert and security and patrol arrangements by the Police and Army were intensified in Georgetown following the shocking midday invasion yesterday of the Office of the President compound by illegal protestors - two of whom were shot dead, nine injured and several arrested - and the burning of two Regent Street stores.
The last incident up to press time was an attempt to burn down the Courts Furniture Store and Caribbean Chemicals on Regent Street. One of the show windows of Courts was smashed, Police said.

At the time of the lunchtime attack on the Presidential Complex, President Bharrat Jagdeo was attending the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Civil Society Encounter at the Ocean View Convention Centre, Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara.

POLICE on patrol on Regent Street yesterday.
In a series of events that started before sunrise, hundreds of protestors from Mr. Phillip Bynoe's People's Solidarity Movement, aligned to the main Opposition People's National Congress/Reform (PNC/R), eventually made their way to the Office of the President, where a group stormed through the gate of the compound while ministers and other officials of the Government were at work in their offices.

The Office of the President reported that the guards at the gate were assaulted and the group of criminal elements stormed into the compound. Warning shots and continuous appeals from the security ranks on duty failed to prevent the invasion, it said.

A MEMBER of the Police Tactical Services Unit instructs the arrested group who stormed the Presidential Complex.
Sergeant Lewis, the officer in charge of the Presidential Guards at the New Garden Street sentry point was beaten and had to be hospitalised because of the injuries to his head, the office said.

The protestors forced their way into several offices, concentrating on the Accounts Department. The Office of the President said several staff members and work-study students were threatened, held at knifepoint and robbed.
The group then began to carry out an indiscriminate destruction of equipment, furniture and parts of the offices.

The Presidential guards then discharged rounds during which a man and a woman were shot dead. A black handle knife was discovered in the waist of the deceased man, Police said.

THE Accounts Department of the Presidential Complex after it was stormed by the group of protestors.
Seventeen persons who were part of the protest were arrested and are in custody, Police said.

Nine persons who suffered gunshot wounds had to be treated at the Georgetown Public Hospital, the Ministry of Health reported. Five of them were admitted to the hospital.

Those injured were: Germaine Fraser, 25, of Beterverwagting; Orland Caesar, 25, also of Beterverwagting; Tracy Hopkinson, 29, of Plaisance; Ralph Caesar, 30, of Linden; Mark Lewis, 29, of Golden Grove; Bryan London, 19, of Paradise; Andy Williams, 32, of West Ruimveldt; Kelvin Nicholson of Melanie; Clint Fletcher, 32, of Linden.

In a statement, Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy lamented that the health sector was again severely challenged as a large number of persons from the unruly protest had to be treated by the hospital, while still taking care of genuinely sick persons.

A `station wagon' was overturned and set on fire by protestors at the junction of Regent and New Garden Streets.

Down Regent Street, several huge stones and other debris were thrown on the road.

Shortly thereafter, Police reported that a group of protestors broke down the door of the Payless Variety and Gift Store on Regent Street, looted and then lit the store afire. A car parked outside of the store, which belonged to the store's owner, was also turned over and shoved on the pavement in front of the store. It caught afire as the blaze spread.

The fire soon caught on the Fullworths General Store next door. The store was gutted, except for the front half of the bottom and middle flats of the store. However, only a small quantity of goods from the ground floor was spared.

Though there were complaints that the Fire Service was slow to arrive on the scene, their actions, aided by others, helped to avert damage to other stores, including the newly opened Bounty Meat Centre.

Police said the driver of a fire tender which was proceeding to the scene of the fires was assaulted and some of his gear stolen while a wheel of the vehicle was punctured.

The gutted Payless Variety and Gift Store as the fire spreads to the Fullworths General Store.

At the fired razed on, panic gripped Regent Street as the overhead electric wires started sparking and persons ran in fright in all directions.

As they are forced to do every time there is a protest, Regent Street stores shut their doors. Shutters were rolled up, iron doors were slammed in and plyboards, where not already, were quickly put on to protect glass show windows.

Up to dusk, some stores were still busy putting protective measures in place.

Invaders: Some of the protesters who invaded the Office of the President (OP) yesterday
being led out of the compound to be taken away by the police. Two protesters were shot dead in the Accounts Section of OP after threatening staff there. (Office of the President photo)

At around 14:00 hrs Police said, a vehicle owned by a Professional Distribution Investments was attacked and looted while on Oronoque Street during which a quantity of cash and cigarettes were stolen.

Police reported that the driver, salesman and another occupant fled the scene and the vehicle was later towed away by its owners.

The bus and taxi parks were also virtually cleared as the events unfolded. At least one taxi service cancelled its services for a while. When it resumed service, its customers were mainly those who wanted to be taken out of town.

The march, led by Bynoe, who has publicly indicated his alignment to the PNC/R, moved off at around 06:55 hrs from Golden Grove, East Coast Demerara.

However, the string of criminal activities started three hours before, when a fire was lit on the Victoria Public Road by criminal elements, Police said. The fire was extinguished by the Police.

Shortly after, Police said another fire was lit on the Golden Grove public road by "criminal elements" from a crowd of about 50 persons who, "while enjoying the spectacle of their unlawful actions", chanted "More fire, more fire". This fire, too, was extinguished by the Police.

Then at Belfield public road, a blockage was erected, "again by criminal elements" who placed the shell of a motor car across the road, Police said. The blockage was removed by Police.

During the march to Georgetown, which apparently grew in size from village to village, Police said, two citizens, one from Good Hope and the other from Success, were among those robbed "by criminal elements" who were in the illegal procession led by Bynoe.

Police said that in the first incident, a 42-year-old woman of Success was robbed of her gold chain and pendant valued at $16,000. The woman was a passenger on a mini-bus which was proceeding slowly along the Coldingen Public Road when another woman approached her and snatched the chain and pendant she was wearing around her neck. The robber reportedly dissapeared back into the procession, Police said.

In the other incident, which occurred at about 09:25 hrs, a 32-year-old man of Success Village was robbed of his bicycle valued at $8,000. Police said four men from the procession went into his yard, beat him and his wife, then rode out the yard with the bicycle. The attackers threw his wife on the ground after the beating.

Police reported that during the protests, ten incidents of robbery with violence were perpetrated on commuters and cash and other valuables stolen by criminal elements armed with knives, sticks and metal bars.

Meantime, the group of persons who had for weeks been encamped outside the residence of the Prime Minister on Main Street, Georgetown, were no longer in sight last evening.

The Police dismantled the camp and took the materials to the Brickdam Police Station.

The persons who were in the camp were seen headed to the environs of Stabroek Market after the camp was dismantled.

The removal of the tent left the area in a filthy state, with numerous disposable food boxes and other material scattered about, changing the face of an otherwise beautiful thoroughfare that is Main Street.

Office of the President says
Attack was step by PNC/R to remove elected government
THE Office of the President (OP) said it views with the greatest concern the attack on the Presidential Complex yesterday and blamed it on the main Opposition People's National Congress Reform (PNC/R).

"The OP condemns the blatant attack on the Presidential Complex and notes that the invaders, holding staffers at knifepoint, were actually demanding access to the first floor Confidential Secretariat of the President", OP said in a statement.

It called the attack unprecendented and said it must be seen as a step by the PNC/R to assassinate President Bharrat Jagdeo and remove the elected PPP/C Government from office.

The OP said "it wishes to state again that some Guyanese are being misled by the Opposition PNC/R and are being encouraged to rise up against the State."

It stated that yesterday's march and demonstartion was organised by the PNC/R and that it was illegal, as the Police Force did not provide permission.

"It should also be noted that the Opposition PNC/R has signalled its intentions to continue its reckless assault on constitutional authority, private property and innocent Guyanese by applying for permission for more marches in Georgetown on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday of this week", OP stated.

The statement said the Government is calling on Guyanese to soberly reflect on these developments, coming as they do in the context of the conduct of the PNC/R towards the elected PPP/C Government.

"The PPP/C Government is also again calling on the Opposition PNC/R to renounce its resort to terrorism and recommit themselves to dialogue with the Government", the OP stated.

"The Opposition PNC/R must know the local, regional and international implications of attempting to overthrow an elected government", the statement said.

PPP/C condemns invasion of Presidential Complex
THE governing People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) has condemned yesterday's invasion of the Presidential Complex by protestors, dubbing it an attack by the opposition to destabilise the Government and disturb the current CARICOM summit in Georgetown.

The PPP/C put the blame on the main Opposition People's National Congress Reform (PNC/R) for yesterday's violent attacks in downtown Georgetown, which saw several incidents of banditry, the setting ablaze of two Regent Street stores, and the attack on the Presidential Complex, in which the officer in charge of the Presidential Guards there was wounded.

"PNC activist Phillip Bynoe led the invading gang who recently launched a racist attack on the current administration and squatted in front of the Prime Minister's residence. It must be noted that the PNC/R leaders Robert Corbin and Vincent Alexander had also been mobilising for (yesterday's) illegal activities", the PPP/C stated.

"The unrest in Georgetown resulting from the PNC/R organised illegal march and protest on the East Coast of Demerara and Georgetown is consistent with a pattern of destabilisation acts unleashed by that party following its defeat at successive elections since October 1992, when democracy was returned to the country after an absence of 28 years", the PPP/C said in a statement.

It stated that the PNC/R has consistently claimed that the elections were rigged despite the fact that all were declared free and fair by local, regional and international observer groups, and charged that the PNC/R is unprepared to accept the verdict of the Guyanese people.

"Its (the PNC's) 28 years of dictatorial rule is still fresh in the minds of Guyanese. And now that party seeks to subvert democracy from the Opposition", the PPP/C stated.

"The PPP/Civic therefore calls on democratic forces in Guyana and the world over, more particularly our CARICOM friends, to condemn these acts of terrorism and banditry unleashed by the PNC/R against the people of Guyana", the party stated.

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