Thursday 20 February, 2020

Beetham "community leaders" released hours after detention

The reasons for the fiery protests experienced along the roadways surrounding the Beetham community yesterday initially stemmed from the arrests of “community leaders” Kenneth “Spanish” Rodriquez and Ancel “Chemist” Villafana.

The two men were held around 7:30 on Thursday morning during a police exercise conducted by officers of the Port of Spain Division.

The exercise was supervised by ACP Radcliffe Boxill, with assistance from Snr Sup Hodge Griffith and Snr Sup Ajith Persad. And while the officers conducted several door to door searches, part of the aim of the exercise was to question these “community leaders” on any potential knowledge about why there was an increase in shootings in the Beetham and Laventille communities over the past nine days.

The two men were taken to the Besson Street Police Station where they were questioned.

During the process, one of the men complained of having chest pains and was taken to the Port of Spain General Hospital for examination.

He was treated and returned to the police station where he was further questioned.

The two men were released some hours later.

This release, police stressed, was not an “attempt to quell residents of Beetham” but due to the fact that the men had assisted police with their inquiries, with one of the men even paying an outstanding fine while he was in the station.

However, their detention led to protests in the Beetham communities.

Around 10:15 am on Thursday, residents began blocking the carriageways to the eastbound lane of the highway, with police receiving reports that a car had been set on fire, that at least five vehicles had been attacked by missiles (thrown rocks), as well as robberies of persons who were stuck in traffic.

While according to police reports, all these incidents took place within 30 minutes, as officers of the Rapid Response Unit and the Port of Spain Division were on location within minutes, they noted that it was enough time for a sense of panic to be created.

This sense of panic was perpetuated for most of the day, police said, by social media, with persons sharing videos and voice notes of protests and descriptions of violent acts, long as the incident occurred, under the belief that it was still ongoing. 

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