Riot police fired rubber bullets at protestors in an illegal march in the city yesterday as APNU continued to press for the release of statements of poll from last week’s elections, copies of which will now be released following private sector intervention. (See other story on page 10.)
Police reported that they fired on protestors after they failed to heed orders to disperse, since no permission was granted for the march, but APNU leaders later denounced their “overreaction” to the situation. APNU presidential candidate David Granger called on the police to “desist from shooting innocent people and causing injury, they are creating a crisis where none should exist.”
Attorney James Bond, Brigadier (re’td) Edward Collins, former PNCR MP Joan Baveghems and several supporters of the movement were among those injured after being fired upon by the police on Hadfield Street. Bond and Collins sustained multiple pellet wounds about their bodies.
Also, eight students and a teacher of the St Sidwell’s Primary School were rushed to the Georgetown Public Hospital after they were affected by tear gas, which was shot into a small group of curious onlookers who gathered in front of the school as police attempted to disperse those gathered at the nearby Square of the Revolution.
along with Joseph Harmon and attorney-at-law Basil Williams [centre and right respectively] as they left the Brickdam Police Station compound yesterday. “]The protest march, which was organised by APNU-affiliate Youth Coalition for Transformation, began at the Square of the Revolution sometime after 9:30 am and it saw between three and four hundred participants, mainly young people, who carried palm leaves, empty bottles and APNU apparel.
Along Brickdam, around 10 am, the protestors were marching west, in the vicinity of the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), when two canter loads of police officers, decked out in full riot gear, arrived at the scene and assembled in front of them.
An officer on a loud hailer told the group to disperse and leave the area, but as the police neared, the protesters turned left into Winter Place and subsequently west into Hadfield Street. At this point, more than a dozen police officers dashed through Brummel Place and approached the group, urging them to leave the area.
A violent clash then ensued as the policemen pushed and shoved the group of persons to the ground.
At this point, the police officers pointed their rifles and fired more than two dozen rounds of pellets indiscriminately into the crowd of people as the old, young and even handicapped scampered for cover.
As persons lay on the ground, injured the police continued to fire into the crowd. Persons who ventured out to see what was happening were told by the police to remove from the area.
The protesters ran in various directions after the shots were fired but many converged back at the starting point at the Square of the Revolution. The police subsequently ordered the protesters away from the area and proceeded to arrest several persons who stood around there. Vendors who sold items in the vicinity were told to move from the area while the police took possession of the beverage containers, including freezers.
Around midday, several vehicles, which belonged to some participating in the march, were towed away from the area to the Brickdam Police Station, where a small crowd grew as the leaders of APNU were engaged in a meeting with the police administration there.
Presidential candidate of APNU David Granger told the media that he met with Divisional Commander George Vyphuis at Brickdam and he voiced his concern over the entire chain of events yesterday morning.
He said that the police overreacted and used excessive force, which he opined was unwarranted. He noted that the march was peaceful, while adding that no one was attacked nor any public building damaged and they were not in possession of any noisy instruments, nor were they attempting to create public disorder. According to him, some protesters were arrested by the police while leaving the area after the shooting.
Granger, however, emphasised that APNU remains committed to lawful protest until the statements of poll are verified by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM). GECOM announced last evening that it would provide copies of statements of poll used to compute the elections results to all parties and local observer groups.
The coalition, Granger noted, will have to investigate whether permission was granted for the march.
Meanwhile, APNU candidate Deborah Backer told the media outside the Brickdam Police station earlier that while she was not at the scene of the incident, the police had not handled the situation professionally. Backer, her colleagues Dalgleish Joseph and Basil Williams, were at the police station to lend support to the injured and those in custody while AFC party candidate and lawyer Nigel Hughes also showed up and engaged the police there.
Granger, Williams and party campaign manager Joseph Harmon were expected to meet with police commissioner Henry Greene yesterday afternoon to discuss the situation.