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Trinidad and Tobago Unrest

Riot Squad called during crime protest

Camille Bethel,  Jul 14, 2009

Riot Squad officers were ordered to Prime Minister Patrick Manning's residence in St Ann's on Sunday night, after hundreds of people protesting crime and government wastage called on him to leave the fortified compound and meet with them.

Manning never met with the protesters, and the face-off ended without incident.

But yesterday, acting Commissioner of Police James Philbert said he was awaiting a report on the events of the night. It is uncertain who called the Riot Squad or if Manning was at home.

The plan to visit the prime minister was announced during the One People, One Voice rally earlier in the day at Skinner Park, San Fernando.

The rally attracted thousands of people and heard emotional speeches from those opposed to alleged government mismanagement of resources, the lack of proper health care and panic over safety and security of citizens.

Hundreds of vehicles were later part of a convoy that left San Fernando at nightfall, led by trucks with public address systems.

Later on, the motorcade did not enter the avenue leading to the doubled-gated entrance to the prime minister’sresidence and Diplomatic Centre in St Ann's. Instead, the group gathered on the pavement near President's Grounds.

Social activist Inshan Ishmael said the police had granted permission for the group to use its public address system until midnight.

"There was no violence. Our calls were ones of love and understanding, and, more than anything else, pleading," he said.

The chant of "one voice, one voice" echoed through the community for about 30 minutes before police arrived.

Ishmael said, "We felt that if the prime minister could meet with gang members and community leaders, he could also meet with law-abiding taxpayers."

Ishmael said at least 30 officers from the Guard and Emergency Branch who showed up supported those involved in the rally, many of them women.

Ishmael was arrested and charged two years ago with distributing an improperly done flier that called for a two-day nationwide strike. The charge was later dropped.

Ishmael said yesterday, "I thank (ag) Commissioner of Police (James Philbert) for the direction the officers have taken. I think the Guard and Emergency Branch has been re-engineered since the (Drummit to) Summit in St James."

Philbert yesterday said he had spoken with officers and was awaiting a report on the incident.

"An investigation is being conducted on what took place and when I get that information I will speak on it," he said.

Ishmael said Sunday's action was just the start of a series of rallies planned by citizens.

Riot Squad called during crime protest
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