I was arrested at Triumph for a protest against garbage dumping, police showed no interest in going after perpetrator

Dear Editor,

Last Saturday (17th May) I was a guest of the Police at the Beterverwagting Police Station for just under an hour. This happened because on Saturday morning I decided to protest against a practice of some people living in my neighbourhood.

Three years ago I decided to return to take up residence in the compound of my birth at the corner of Ogle and Jardin streets in Triumph. Very early I realised that a few neighbours would from time to time deposit their garbage in front of the lot. On occasions when I would be able to determine from whence the garbage came I would go to the person concerned and ask that he/she remove the garbage. Over the years I have had varying responses to such calls. Some would remove it with apologies, one asked where else I think the garbage should be thrown, and one burnt the stuff twice in my absence, causing ash to be deposited in the house I occupy.

Apart from going to those residents I once called the Beterverwagting Police Station to report on this and a larger dumping issue on the Triumph Railway embankment. The police officer on duty told me that I should report to the Village Council or the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). I did call the EPA and was referred to an officer at the Regional Democratic Council who in turn told me I should report to the NDC. I have been in contact with the BV/Triumph NDC, they told me to report to the Public Health Officer, which I also did. The last time I discussed the issue with the Chairman of the NDC he told me to erect a sign. I indicated to him that it would be improper for me to do so since the NDC is the authority responsible for the erection of such signage.

Probably because of my persistence the practice subsided, and there was no significant violation since February of this year. However Saturday morning I observed a quantity of building waste dumped on the parapet. I immediately proceeded to use the said materials to create a road block intending that by doing so I would create enough discomfort so that pressure would be brought to bear on the person responsible for the dumping. Before long I was told that a known junkie was the one who made the deposits and from where he brought the materials.

About one hour after the barricade was in place, a young lady from the neighbourhood arrived in a taxi, with some purchased items to deliver at her house, and was inconvenienced by the blockage. She made a telephone call and promptly announced to me that if I do not remove the blockage the Police are coming “to lock yuh backside up”, she gave a performance of what some consider to be effective Guyanese language until the Police did arrive. Not being prepared to listen to her continued abuse I had moved from my point of protest and gone into the house.

I subsequently experienced a shocking intrusion of my privacy by the Police. While I was on the phone two uniformed policemen armed with shot guns walked into my house and stood at the door of the room I was in. I greeted them and thereafter noticed that there were two more armed policemen in the house. I need to stress I did not hear these officers calling or knocking. They simply walked into my house. Is the new mode of operation of our policemen to just walk into our homes?

The Officer in Charge of the lot of intruding policemen, Corporal Thomas, asked me my name and I told him. He asked about the blockage and I told him that it was part of a protest action against some of my neighbours who are in the habit of disposing their garbage in a manner which does not show neighbourliness. He asked that I remove the blockage, since it is against the law to block roads. I informed that I could not since it would be against the principle of a protest. He then advised that his other option was to arrest me, since I had refused to remove the blockage. I asked that he allow me to get the keys to the house and my phone in case I needed to make a call. He allowed my request.

Thus I ended up on the bench at the Beterverwagting Police Station. At the station the arresting Corporal reported by phone to Supt Wright, whom I can safely assume to be the one receiving a telephone call. From my view point good sense probably prevailed and I was not charged.

While the Police were at my home a small crowd had gathered and some of those present told the policemen the name of the person who deposited the builder’s waste, and that of the person who would have paid him to place it there. They clearly indicated that they were not interested in going after those persons. While I entered the vehicle to be taken to the station, I observed some of those present removing the blockage.

The waste materials remain in front of my house as I write today Monday, May 19th at 3 pm (two days after). I dare say that the ones in the neighbourhood who would usually pay junkies to make the drop offs are now feeling emboldened. The message to them is clear. Members of the Guyana Police Force are seemingly supportive of their dumping practices and have demonstrated a willingness to arrest anyone who protests such actions.

In closing it is necessary to mention a recent effect of such dumping in the community as a reminder to residents in my neighbourhod. Just over three weeks ago someone lit a “Mini Mandela Dumpsite” in Jardin Street (on which I live). The result was two small businesses were out of electrical power for two weeks. That dump started with bits and pieces of wood which the garbage collectors do not remove.

Yours faithfully,
Elton McRae

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