The capital of Trinidad, Port of Spain, was deadlocked 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 disenfranchised 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: 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, told 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 found 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 colleagues.
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 later this incidentPCA director David West confirmed that a preliminary investigation had been completed and a report 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.
4th of July protests look a lot like deja vuwhile large expeditions of police and regimental members moved quickly to remove the debris and burning car tires from the eastbound lane of the Beetham Highway, the main road into and out of the town, and clear the way for fire trucks and other necessary emergency vehicles. Protesters have been warned to demonstrate peacefully and stop disruption or risk imprisonmentbut residents have vowed to continue to demonstrate their outrage until justice is done:
Picture of the day pic.twitter.com/ikzHGvuuOt
— NΣ§§シ™ (@gottaluvness69) July 4, 2022
Meanwhile, citizens took to social media to share their experiences. There were many WhatApp voice notes circulating on the 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:
Stopped traffic around the Savannah 🥴 pic.twitter.com/ErU5xV8dmN
— NΣ§§シ™ (@gottaluvness69) July 4, 2022
Images of fires lit – both along the Beetham Highway and in several streets in eastern Port of Spain – were widely distributed, and at least one driver has shared video of his car’s cracked windshield, confirming it was damaged by “large rocks” protesters were throwing at officers. The country The Office of Disaster Preparedness and Management (ODPM) issued a statement advising citizens to avoid these areas due to traffic disruptions.
The demonstrations were soon suppressed and the tracks become passable again.
While some social media users tried to politicize the issue and others complained about the inconvenience caused by the protestspoet Shivanee Ramlochan said on Twitter:
Port of Spain is burning now. 🔥
Which doesn’t mean it doesn’t burn all the time. Only that we notice and are embarrassed by it when there are literal flames.
The same people have so often been the subject of other people’s art: candid photographs, somber still lifes: we let rage.
— Novel niche | Abortion is a human right (@novelniche) July 4, 2022
facebook user Ahmed Nicholls reflects:
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 p.m. local time on July 4, Acting Police Commissioner McDonald Jacob said officers involved in the shooting of the young men have been placed on desk duty as investigations continue and video footage of the incident has 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.