Spain capital

Trinidad’s capital blocked by protests over police killings Global Voices Français

Drone photo of Port of Spain, Trinidad during the July 4 protests against the July 2 police killing of three young men. Image by Gabriel Nagee, used with permission.

Trinidad’s capital Port of Spain was in a stalemate on July 4 following protests over the police killing of three young men over the weekend.

According to local media, six men from various neighborhoods in Laventille, a deprived community on the outskirts of the capital, were driving home from a party at around 3:20 a.m. local time (UTC-4). Police say the occupants of the car fired at them and they returned fire, killing three people: Fabian Richards (22), Niko Williams (21) and Isaiah Roberts (17). A fourth man was shot dead and taken to hospital, while the other two escaped.

Roberts’ grandmother was completely upset, accusing the police of killing black children “on the road like dogs.” Upon learning of his son’s death, Richards’ father raised the issue of police profiling and abuse, telling the Trinidad Guardian newspaper: “It makes me wonder if the system [is] for us or not […]? Six ni…s in a car, six ni…s is that criminal? Because they live in Laventille? Because they drive a [Nissan] Tiida? Richards’ mother said they planned to go to the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) over the murder.

The PCA, an independent body charged with investigating police corruption and misconduct, recently discovered that Constable Clarence Gilkes, who was shot and killed on April 22 – an incident his fellow officers had blamed on a member of the Richplain “hotspot” community they were pursuing and launched a manhunt to find the man responsible – was in fact accidentally killed by one of his co-workers.

This is not the first time the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) has been accused of abuse of power. On June 27, 2020, after a policeman was shot dead in Morvant, a depressed area east of Port of Spain, some of his colleagues went to the area and killed three men. Protests against the killings quickly followed, sparking conversations about the many ways vulnerable communities are alienated and their experiences dismissed. A few months after the incident, PCA Director David West confirmed that a preliminary investigation had been completed and a report had been sent to the country’s Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). As far as Global Voices can discern, no further developments in this matter have been made public.

The July 4 protests are very much like deja vu, as large dispatches of police and regimental members moved quickly to clear debris and burning car tires from the eastbound lane of the Beetham Motorway , the main route to and from the city. , and clear the way for fire trucks and other necessary emergency vehicles. Protesters have been warned to demonstrate peacefully and end disruption or risk imprisonment, but residents have vowed to continue demonstrating their outrage until justice is served:

Meanwhile, citizens took to social media to share their experiences. Many WhatApp voice notes were circulating about traffic around Queen’s Park Savannah and other major thoroughfares as people avoided the Beetham area, and some schools in eastern Port of Spain reportedly closed classes early:

Footage of fires ignited – both along the Beetham Highway and on several streets in eastern Port of Spain – has been widely shared, and at least one driver has shared video of the cracked windshield of his car, confirming that it had been damaged by the “large rocks” the protesters were throwing at the police. The National Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) issued a statement advising citizens to avoid these areas due to traffic disruptions.

Demonstrations were soon suppressed and the tracks became passable again.

In an Instagram video, police are seen warning residents of eastern Port of Spain to refrain from obstructing roads during their protests; in response, a man shouts, “Stop killing the police!

While some social media users tried to politicize the issue and others complained about the inconvenience caused by the protests, poet Shivanee Ramlochan said on Twitter:

Facebook user Ahmed Nicholls said:

Privileged and racist Trinidadians are back. A protest is not meant to be convenient. You’re more concerned about having to sit in traffic than about the police getting involved in yet another extrajudicial murder.
Howling Trinis always need to protest, but you have the worst to say about the one group of Trinis who constantly do so.

Full details of the incident have yet to be determined, including whether the killings were “extrajudicial”. At a press conference at 5:00 p.m. local time on July 4, Acting Police Commissioner McDonald Jacob said officers involved in the shooting of the young men had been placed on desk duty as investigations were continuing, and that video footage of the incident had been sent to investigators. Citing the many outreach programs and youth clubs the TTPS maintains in at-risk communities, Jacob emphasized that the police department is there to serve rather than oppose the public, and thanked residents for cooperated with officers during the protests.