The protest in Linden heads into its fifth day today with its original focus—the increase in electricity tariffs—being widened to include the gunning down of three men by police on Wednesday.
Addressing a rally last evening at the Wismar end of the Mackenzie-Wismar Bridge, Regional Chairman Kuice Sharma Solomon said that the struggle will go on beyond today (Sunday) unless there are announcements indicating that the demands of the people are answered.
Solomon briefed residents about a meeting he recently attended with President Donald Ramotar, when a request was made for the removal of the officer in charge and for him to be charged in connection with Wednesday’s fatal shooting of the three men. “He acted on the removal of the officer and no action on the charge and we are not accepting that,” Solomon said.
Additionally, he said, they are calling for the removal of Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee and Prime Minister Samuel Hinds as well as the removal of the July 1, tariff on electricity. “It is not until we get these in full that we will come off the streets,” he said.
Solomon said they have also called for the removal of the armed forces from the streets of Linden, since, “all they are doing is inciting and attempting to intimidate residents.”
Stating that it had been rumoured that President Donald Ramotar was expected in Linden today, Solomon said, “I have not been officially contacted and I would not be rushed into any sudden meetings if they don’t make contact with me formally. We shall not be moved.”
He alluded to being referred to as “lil boy” and other unsavory names by members of the government.
Recollecting Wednesday night’s events, Solomon said that he and members of Parliament were targets. He said he had just concluded addressing residents on the bridge closer to the Mackenzie end. “Lincoln Lewis advised me to go to the Wismar end to address a large group… and it was while I was walking to the Wismar end that the shots started ringing out,” he said.
He opined that the officers knew he should have been heading in their direction.
“I am a man of God and am not afraid to die,” he said. “If they kill me I will still live on because as a young God-fearing leader, I would have made an indelible impression on the work for which I was called.”
He dispelled claims he and MP Vanessa Kissoon had abandoned the protest, informing that they were engaged in several meetings and discussions in the interest of residents.
Solomon told the residents that the business community of Linden, surrounding communities, the Caribbean and further afield are in full support of the movement.
He assured them that the need for food and other necessities for daily existence will be taken care of. Churches throughout the community would be the centres of distribution soon, he said to applause.
According to Solomon, pledges and financial support have been pouring in to support the relatives of the deceased and for the burial of their slain loved ones.
Prior to the start of the rally, there was a mournful mood among the thousands gathered. And a minute of silence was observed at the beginning of the proceedings in honour of the three dead men.
Among the others who addressed the gathering were: Jermaine Figueroa a Linden youth leader, who was very emotional while speaking; AFC’s Cathy Hughes; political activist, Dr David Hinds; trade unionist, Lincoln Lewis; and APNU’s Dr Rupert Roopnaraine and Aubrey Norton.
As the meeting ended, bands of people headed to the Kara Kara Bridge at Mackenzie, which had been blocked, cleared and blocked again. “We do not need your apologies, we need your resignation;” and “No retreat, No surrender” were the chants that resounded as they went to join others who had remained vigilant at the Kara Kara Bridge while the rally was in progress.
Earlier yesterday, the police had used a bulldozer to clear the Kara Kara Bridge, only to have protestors manually lift even larger logs and block it again and thereafter maintain a presence at the bridge as well as at the other road blocks set up around Linden.
Sizeable crowds remained at the Mackenzie-Wismar bridge up to press time last night, beating drums, singing religious songs, playing culture song and at intervals sounding the chant: “No retreat, no surrender”. “We keeping vigil all night,” one resident said.
Throughout the day, residents had remained vigilant in maintaining the road blocks at strategic secondary and primary roads, especially from the Amelia’s Ward junction to the Kara Kara Bridge. Persons entering or leaving the town were forced to walk long distances and in some sections were being shuttled for short distances by cars which were also trapped and could not operate as per normal.
After four yesterday afternoon residents who were at the Kara Kara Bridge were once again faced with the police who were attempting to remove the large logs, which formed the barrier.
They complained bitterly to GDF Colonel General Staff Bruce Lovell, who in the company of several other officers, was in Linden to check on staff there.
“Sir, we will ensure that you get out, on one ground, that you ensure that those police move back and not come near this bridge,” said one of the residents, who, among several others, took on the leadership role at the Kara Kara Bridge.
They explained that as a large crowd was at the bridge, the police advanced with the bulldozer and pointed guns at them. “We stayed our ground and it was as if they wanted to bulldoze right through us but we didn’t move,” one of the men said.
“We will to work with the army, sir, but we want absolutely nothing to do with those cold-blooded murderers,” he added.
A group of residents later guided Lovell and his entourage to where they could get out.
Stabroek News, speaking briefly with Lovell, asked how he found the atmosphere in Linden. “It’s very peaceful and calm; very peaceful,” he responded. In every section residents were in strong condemnation of Friday night’s looting of the Digicel store and the Mackenzie Post Office. (See other story on page 16 ) There were expressions of appreciation that the culprits were caught and most of the items retrieved.
Residents said they are prepared to continue beyond today with the protest.