Protests and Police Violence in Trinidad – Emancipation Support Committee Statement

1st July 2020 PRESS RELEASE:

ESCTT IS DEEPLY TROUBLED

Events of the past two days have sent a clear message that Trinidad and Tobago is teetering on the brink of what could be a major crisis and we are yet to hear the calming words of wisdom and understanding that are needed from those in authority at this time.

What we witnessed on, June 30, with the blocking of streets and burning of tyres and debris was a widespread explosion of pent up anger in several communities, particularly in North Trinidad. The immediate trigger for the actions was the police killing on Saturday 27th June 2020, of three young men, Israel Clinton, Joel Jacob and Noel Diamond of Morvant. CCTV footage, showing the men holding their empty hands outside of the open car windows appeared to give the lie to the usual story that the police officers had come under fire from the victims and responded in self-defense. If the victims had been residents of St Clair, that community and the wider society would expect swift justice from those in authority. Based on experience the people of Morvant, Laventille, the Beetham, John John and similar marginalized communities do not have the same expectations. They have to make their voices heard and while no one likes to be inconvenienced, the public understands the pain of those suffering in these neglected and demonized communities.

It was therefore appalling to hear the Minister of National Security publicly describe the expressions of righteous anger as part of a political plot for which some persons were paid. The accusations of a political plot were backed up by the Commissioner of Police assuring the nation that “the well-orchestrated plan to destabilize the country by a few, has been quelled.” He described the few as “gang leaders” who “commenced their plan to cause mayhem, fear, and destruction throughout the country.”

Footage of the official response to the protests seen on TV raise serious questions about the judgement of a police commissioner who would put officers armed with high-powered rifles in the frontlines to disperse unarmed civilians. Now the country mourns the tragic fatal shooting of the pregnant mother, Ms. Ornella Greaves, mother from Beetham.

The ESCTT is also deeply troubled by the photograph of a policeman in camouflage kneeling on the neck of a protestor laid out on his back on the ground in the presence of four other officers. It is disturbingly reminiscent of the George Floyd incident in the United States. Serious questions need to be raised now about where our country is headed. Ordinary citizens as well need to step back and understand how too many among us are being desensitized about some sections of our community based on class and place of residence and thereby giving the green light for the abuse of the human rights of fellow citizens.

Our organization, which annually honours achievers from these communities, expresses our deepest condolences to the families and love ones of those who lost their lives and were injured. We will stand by these communities in this hour of peril and assist them in every way that we can.

[Photo – from http://www.emancipationtt.com]

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