-cops met by angry residents
“Murderers! Murderers!” were the chants that greeted former E&F Division Commander Clifton Hicken and Assistant Superintendent Patrick Todd yesterday when they made their way towards the Mackenzie-Wismar Bridge at Linden, where three residents were shot and killed on July 18.
Their return to the bridge was part of a visit by members of the Commission of Inquiry into the shooting to the Linden sites where the events unfolded between July 18 and August 12.
The commissioners, Justice Lensley Wolfe, Senior Counsel K.D. Knight, Justice Cecil Kennard and Justice Claudette Singh, however, did not formally engage the public during the visit. Senior Counsel Dana Seetahal, who is also part of the commission, was not present on the trip.
The commissioners’ convoy arrived in Linden at approximately 10:45 am and made its first stop at the Mackenzie-Wismar Bridge, where a large group of Lindeners, lined behind police barricades, greeted them. Loud cheers and applause were heard as the commissioners made their way through the crowd greeting persons as they went by.
However, it was not long before their cheers turned to anger and they began advancing over the barricades as Hicken and Todd were seen walking towards the commissioners along with three other ranks.
Hicken was the commander responsible for the area at the time of the shooting, while Todd led the riot unit that engaged protestors on the bridge. Although acting Police Commissioner Leroy Brumell said Todd was the officer who gave the order to ranks to fire, Todd has denied this claim, saying he alone fired into the air and into the ground.
“Everybody see them! Everybody see them!” persons screamed as police ranks made efforts to control the crowd circling the two officers yesterday. A short distance away, Knight stood listening to one woman who said she was shot at the bridge by police.
“He see I was right there with my baby, right there! I was there with my baby. And they had a police in the force, a police was standing there with them and he said ‘look at that lady with her baby, y’all don’t shoot’ and they still start to shoot, they still continue to shoot and the officer turn and say ‘don’t shoot the girl’ because they go fuh shoot me and the officer say ‘no don’t shoot she, is meh family’ and he still shoot. Right now meh baby traumatised. Every time she come here, she is say ‘mommy, don’t leh we pass, them police shooting,” the woman said, wailing loudly before she was escorted away by a relative.
As the crowd became hard to control for the lawmen on the ground, the Commission’s Secretary Ronald Burch-Smith told reporters that they along with the Lindeners would have to remain at a certain distance so as to allow the members of the commission to carry out their work. However, Commissioner Knight told reporters that they would be allowed to remain.
After walking over the bridge, the commissioners stopped to view the Linmine Secretariat building and PPP office, which were burnt on July 18 shortly after the three persons were fatally shot. “People were running in this yard when they shoot the first person,” one person said, as she pointed to the Linmine compound.
Asked about the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) building, which was also set on fire, Knight was told that it was some distance away.
At One Mile Wismar, the commissioners had further encounters with residents, who all attempted to share their story.
Ron Tello, who was reportedly shot to his left jaw in August, told Knight that he is a sporting ambassador for Guyana and has not been given any form of justice or satisfaction for what had been done to him. “I represent this country endless times fighting as a boxer. I am an ambassador of this country. I am a heavyweight boxer… I get medals, I get trophies. I fight in Trinidad, Barbados and win, come out as best boxer. I went to St Kitts, come back as a champion and these people shoot me and I ain’t see nobody looking into my story,” he said. Knight told the young man that their purpose is to look into the matter and urged him to speak to a lawyer. The boxer said he has already done so.
On the receiving end of criticism by residents at the One Mile area was Chairman of the PNCR and APNU MP attorney Basil Williams, who was accused of abandoning Linden during their struggle but appearing only “for the cameras” yesterday.
“This is not about scoring political points, it’s about justice. This is a global village now. Gone are the days when human rights violation will go unnoticed. Gone are those days,” screamed one resident.
Williams, in response to residents, said that he did not think he was doing “much of a bad job” but was told not to “praise himself.”
These confrontations with Williams continued at the Wismar Police Station, which was the site of the commissioner’s final visit. They were offered a tour of the station and then went back to the Mackenzie-Wismar Bridge, where the bus, in which the commissioners and other legal personnel were travelling, was stopped.
It is unclear whether it was believed that the seniors officers implicated in the shooting were travelling in the vehicle but again the crowd chanted, “Murderers! Mur-derers!” as they challenged them to disembark the vehicle.
“We want justice! We want justice! We want justice… We want Todd and Hicken. Who we want? Todd and Hicken! Who we want? Todd and Hicken. Murderers! Todd and Hicken! Murderers! Todd and Hicken!” the crowd chanted as they blocked the bus.
Responding to the people was attorney Nigel Hughes, who pleaded with them to allow the work of the commission to be completed. “I want you to move away so they can come out and take the measurements. The officers are going to come off and I want you to show your discipline because they have to take the measurements,” he said, while still standing on the bus. The Lindeners complied with his request.
Surveyors from the Lands and Surveys remained on the bridge after the convoy left and intended to obtain the measurements which were specifically requested by Hughes, who is representing the AFC and the interest of the three men killed in the July shooting. This information is to be used for future reference as the inquiry continues.
The commissioners ended their visit at the Watooka House, where they were expected to engage the media and members of the public. However, once there, Burch-Smith declared that the commissioners were finished with their Linden activities and would be returning to Georgetown after their lunch.