Not all of Beetham is bad. Consider Ajamu Crosby, Esther Pope and Kareem Marcelle – all youngsters from the area who have won prestigious scholarships. Still, Thursday’s action by a handful of Beetham residents must be acknowledged for what it was: an unlawful breach of the peace that disrupted the nation, undermined productivity and, in some cases, triggered trauma. There was simply no excuse.
The perpetrators must feel the full brunt of the law. The Beetham Highway is a vital conduit to the capital and disruptive action there has a crippling effect, as has been seen many times before.
Furthermore, the attitude displayed by the protesters cannot be condoned. By their actions, they demonstrated a willingness to do indiscriminate harm to police officers and law-abiding citizens. As correctly noted by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley yesterday, such a mindset can only lead to anarchy.
No one is above the law and all who engage in illegal activity should face action by law enforcement authorities. All who encourage illegal activity should also be mindful that inciting violence is itself an offence.
Which is not to say Beetham residents do not have a right to express themselves lawfully or to raise grievances over any instances of inappropriate police action. But in this country, we operate under the rule of law. There are many ways in which a citizen may bring a complaint to the attention of authorities. A citizen can contact the Police Complaints Authority; the Professional Standards Bureau or their Parliamentary representative. Terrorising men, women and children as they go about their day is not the way.
Nor are we convinced the installation of a police post by the State is the solution. The issue seems to be a breakdown in the relationship between the residents and the police. As long as that relationship is dysfunctional, it will matter little how many officers are in the community or how often police patrols are carried out. There must be a focus on good law enforcement strategy, grounded in community relations.
Yet, there can be no justification for any action that disregards the lawful authority of police officers. The police must be given our fullest support. The illegal occupation of State property is the real background to this whole affair. The protest came hours after police detained twenty persons, including two community leaders, who were allegedly illegally occupying Housing Development Corporation properties.
While we are all experiencing parlous economic times, trespass and home invasion are not the answers. Instead, we should all take a cue from Beetham’s scholarship winners who have persevered in their determination to uphold the laws of the land. They have worked hard to find solutions to better themselves. As we all should.