City Hall yesterday shut the door on any resumption of vending at Stabroek square, while promising vendors upset over their removal that the temporary site for their relocation would be ready by today.
“No one will be allowed to return to the Stabroek Market square to do business!” Town Clerk Royston King told hundreds of vendors who gathered yesterday in the compound of City Hall after continuing protests over their removal.
King said that the preparations for the site for their relocation, located at Hadfield and Lombard streets, is almost complete and vendors should be able to occupy it by as early as today.
The vendors had been promised an alternative site over a week ago, when they were given short notice of their removal in order to facilitate a clean-up of the square, which is to be transformed into a civic space. The city, however, failed to deliver on its promised accommodation, resulting in protests.
King, who sought to assure vendors that they were “partners” in the development of the city, stated that so far the area for their relocation has been resurfaced, lights have been installed as have washrooms and a compactor to handle the garbage that will be generated and security is in place to ensure that there is a strict compliance with the law. He said all that remains to be done is the procurement of tents, which will aid the vendors in plying their trade in comfort, regardless of the weather.
“We are in the process of procuring more than 150 tents, which will allow you to do business whether there is sun or rain,” he said, while noting that the tents were being procured at the expense of the Mayor and City Council (M&CC).
King explained that according to the Clerk of Markets there are 133 vendors who will be relocated to the site. He, however, emphasised several times that the arrangement was only for three months, by the end of which the M&CC would have a permanent solution to the problem. As a result, he said that all the vendors who will be relocated will be required to sign a three-month agreement before being given their spots and tents to ply their trade. The vendors will also be required to pay a $1,000 fee per week for the cleaning of the area. “….And before the three months, we will have a solution to this particular problem as it relates to vending around the Stabroek square,” he added.
Although King stressed that there would be no vending at Stabroek Square, he did mention one exception—food vendors. He said they will be allowed to conduct their business from 7pm to 5am. “…And then you have to disappear. No putting down of tables and chairs to allow people to eat and drink because many of you are not licensed to sell alcohol and it must stop,” King said, while noting that they will be operating take away services and can work every day of the week as long as they keep the area clean and ensure they are not obstructing the entrances and or exits to legitimate businesses and properties. “We are not prepared to preside over a filthy and unhealthy city. We will hold hands and make it work. It must work. It has to work and we have to clean up Georgetown whether anybody likes it or not, Georgetown will be clean,” King declared to the uneasy crowd.
‘It’s bullyism for the jubilee’
While some of the vendors were in agreement with the relocation, a lot of them objected and highlighted that the timing of the relocation and the way it was done was disrespectful to them. “When I aired my views, I am being called a rabble-rouser. When I walked and campaigned for this government! We came and protest against [Carol] Sooba to get them out and now I am being addressed as a rabble-rouser,” Conway Douglas, a vendor, said.
He believed that the vendors can stay where they were before and continue to ply their trade in a dignified and orderly manner once there is the proper education. “If you leave them alone, then it’s going to cause problems. A man got some shoes, he will throw it out and it will take up space but the point is those same shoes can be placed on a rack that alone can display all the shoes and that’s what the people out here don’t understand,” he said, while opining that the lack of education and willpower from the council are causing the problems.
Douglas also said most of the vendors live “hand to mouth” and if the council had handled the situation better by alerting them earlier and putting systems in place, then the confusion could have been avoided. “It’s bullyism for the jubilee. While they are coming, we were here all the time but when the benefit must come, we must move and be dumped in a yard like barn animals,” he said.
Other vendors agreed with the man’s sentiments and loudly cheered him on when he raised his concerns to the head table, which included Mayor Patricia Chase-Green.
Chase-Green stated that while there are people arguing against the decision to relocate the vendors, the M&CC cannot give into 10 when there are 10,000 persons to please. She explained that she took a tour around the markets on Sunday and Monday and she noticed vendors living on the pavement, which was unacceptable. “Vending is not illegal. What we are doing is removing the obstructions that are preventing other people from utilising the roadways,” she stated. “…And, therefore, we are asking you to work together. It may seem hard now but it will get easier and we must be able to work together,” Chase-Green said, while noting that from what was reported to her, no one objected to the relocation during the consultation with the vendors last week.
Her statement was greeted with a swift response from the vendors, who disagreed loudly. “I was not there so I can’t say and I am just reporting to you,” she said, in an attempt to quell the raging crowd.
She said the M&CC has acted because it cares about the citizens of the municipality as a whole and, therefore, cannot allow vendors to be on the pavement and the streets blocking people. “The blind complained that if they knock something down, they are being abused,” she said, as the crowd erupted, with some agreeing and some disagreeing.
“We all have bills to pay but I have to help the other people with the little pocket change that are being robbed or the old people who collect their little pension and want to go over to Demico House and want to buy a coffee and cheese roll and by the time they reach the money gone cause they were robbed outside,” she added, while stating that while the city had accepted doing a wrong for too long the time had come for the change everyone voted for. “I love ya bad and I will try my best to do what’s right for you. I love y’all and therefore I will stand up,” she said, while noting that in the past there weren’t any vendors on the Stabroek Square or on the pavements.
Meanwhile, King once more urged vendors who have stalls in the new vendors’ mall, the Stabroek Bazaar, the Stelling View Market and in the Stabroek Market to occupy them or face repossession. He said over 40 vendors who have been vending on the pave although they had stalls in the markets. “Those vendors will have to return to their stalls today or I will reposes them and give them to people who really need them,” King declared, while stating that it is selfish and creates unfair competition when persons have their stalls in the markets and utilise the pave and take up space.
He added that more than 20 vendors have been using the pave along Water Street although they have stalls in the vendors’ mall, which was acquired at a great expense to the state and council many years ago to clear the street of illegal vending activities. “…And lo and behold the people with stalls are still selling on the pave and using the stalls as storage bonds,” King said.