Ken Chee Hing
SENIOR police sources have said a series of protests along the North Coast Road on Monday, were ordered from behind prison walls by a crime boss jailed on remand, who was angered by a recent fatal police-involved shooting.
It had been reported that 22-year-old Meshach Gibson was killed in a shootout with police last Tuesday in La Fillette, Blanchisseuse. Police later seized a Beretta pistol and six rounds of ammunition.
Police sources said they had credible information that the jailed gang leader ordered the protests, which saw people dump debris along several parts of the North Coast Road and set them on fire, escaping before police arrived.
They said Gibson is believed to have been acquainted with a relative of the jailed gang leader.
In the first incident, police from various units in the North Eastern Division were called out to clear burning bush and debris from four areas on the North Coast Road early on Monday.
They said a few men were seen setting fires in La Fillette, Blanchisseuse and two other areas in Maracas at around 6 am.
Officers confirmed that after police left, the men returned with more debris, which they threw across the road and set on fire. This and other burning debris blocked several sections of the North Coast Road, which in turn led to major traffic, as vehicles could not pass.
Police from the Inter Agency Task Force (IATF) and the Guard and Emergency Branch (GEB) were sent back.
Investigators said there were a few isolated demonstrations after 10 am, but by mid-afternoon the areas affected earlier in the day were generally quiet.
Police originally said they were unsure of the reason/s for the fiery protests as there were no protesters by the time they arrived and residents too were also in the dark.
“We have residents assisting the police with outing the fires, so whoever seems to be doing this it appears they are only a small number of people.
“When the officers get to the scene they aren’t seeing anyone lingering around: they seem to just start the fire and then run away into the bushes. So we’re not sure why they are doing this. But we are on the ground and keeping a close eye on this,” an officer said.
Shortly after 11 am, Western Division police received reports that roads were being blocked with tree trunks and burning rubbish in parts of Maraval, including the outskirts of Haleland Park.
Fire officers were escorted there by members of the Western Division Task Force, the Special Patrol Unit (SPU) and the GEB and the fires were doused and debris cleared.
An officer at the scene said information coming to the police suggested the protests were organised by a crime figure who is in custody.
“The information is that this (the protests) was because of a shooting by officers of the North Eastern Division Task Force last week and a notorious gang leader who is incarcerated gave the instructions to go through with the protests…this is solid information,” a senior source said.
Another North Eastern Division officer said he had heard a similar claim, but was unable to verify it.
Western Division police said the protests began at the pillars on the road to Maracas and gradually moved closer to parts of Maraval including Moka and Moraldo Street, near the Maraval police station.
As of 4 pm, police said the roads in these areas were completely cleared and a free flow of traffic restored. They added that police patrols in these areas have been increased to prevent any further disruptions.
No one was arrested, but police warned those responsible that they could face arrest and criminal charges when caught.
“The officers are on the ground to ensure the safe passage of the public and to maintain law and order in these areas. We take these things very seriously and we want to let the perpetrators know that there are very serious consequences for these actions.”
Speaking with reporters in Maraval, several men said the protests were in response to Gibson’s killing as they challenged the police version of events. They said Gibson’s killing had left them concerned for their own safety.
One said, “The police just killing we out and they locking we up and robbing we. They’re putting guns in our hands to frame us. We trust them to do the right thing (but) when they could come, they kill us.
“That’s why I don’t sleep at night, I only sleep during the day, because they can come after hours and deal with me. I do not trust no police at all.”
Asked why they chose to stage their demonstrations almost a week after the killing of Gibson, the men said they had waited to see whether any action would be taken in the investigations.