PROTESTERS marching on Frederick Street on Wednesday were chased away by the police Guard and Emergency Branch (GEB), who used tear gas to disperse the crowd.
The protesters, who promised to keep up their action throughout the week, later told police that officers at the Duncan Street Police Post had told them they were allowed to march peacefully. The group, mostly young adults, were headed to the Parliament when they were stopped.
They were armed with placards, a drastic step down from Tuesday’s protests, when there were burning debris and blocked roads and at least three people were shot. A fourth, Ornella Greaves, was killed when she was shot during protest near her Beetham Gardens home. Police and protesters are blaming each other for her death.
Newsday met up with the protesters as they neared Hart Street, where they were stopped. As they marched, shouting, “No justice, no peace,” police fired a tear-gas canister at them. This had no effect in dispersing the crowd, who began shouting, “Doh shoot.”
One officer using a loudspeaker warned that the protest was unlawful and ordered them to return home while GEB officers with riot shields advanced towards the group, forcing protesters to back away.
While the officer shouted, “Move forward,” a second tear-gas canister was used and protesters began running, with the shielded officers advancing faster than before.
Newsday saw men being trampled as protesters literally ran out of their shoes, dropping their placards. One woman left her hairpiece as a third canister was fired.
Placards saying: “No Justice No Peace,” “No Justice No Peace Don’t Shoot,” “Black Lives Matter,” “We want Justice What Gary Say? Stop Kill Black Youths,” “Don’t Shoot We,” “One Race Human Race,” were left behind.
One man was seen gasping for breath after the final shot and had to be assisted by a woman. He was seen wheezing and holding on to the tray of a van, coughing and spitting. Newsday's reporter also coughed and wheezed after the tear gas was used on the protesters.
Businesses nearby were ordered to close, but some did not wait for orders from the police and closed on their own.
Protesters later complained that the use of the tear gas was heavy-handed, especially since all they were doing was marching.
In response, head of GEB ACP Inraj Balram said the use of tear gas against protesters was well within the law and part of the police use-of-force policy. He added that the protest was an unlawful gathering and the officers were well within the law to have them dispersed.
He added that the steps of the policy include: dialogue with a leader of the protest followed by an order to disperse, then use of shields, batons, dogs, rubber bullets and horses through the Canine and Mounted Branch. The final two steps are chemical gas (tear gas) and lastly deadly force. The trigger needed for deadly force, he said, was deadly force used against police.
After the protesters were dispersed, one man who identified himself as “Saki” complained that the use of force was too much. After he spoke with several officers he was toldthe protest could continue on Wednesday if the protesters marched in groups of 25, ten feet apart.
“We going and buy rope and march tomorrow and I hope they don’t gas we again, eh,” he said.
The man, who said he had lived in East Port of Spain all his life, protested against police injustice as he too claimed to be a victim of it.