Tuesday 17 October, 2017

POS mayor apologises after artist's work destroyed

Port of Spain mayor Joel Martinez said he is sorry for the treatment meted out to artist Damian Agostini, after his wooden sculptures were destroyed by city police earlier this week.

Speaking to LoopTT, Martinez says he believes that the matter could have been handled better, adding that police officers need more tact and discretion when dealing with these matters. 

"From what I understand the instructions that were given to the police were to ask (Agostini) to move, but I believe the police did not manage it well. That was not how it was supposed to happen."

"I sincerely apologise to the gentleman on behalf of the city of Port of Spain," he said, adding that he would like to contact Agostini to rectify the situation.

According to news reports, Agostini previously displayed his works along the walking path of the Queen's Park Savannah, showing hand-made wooden sculptures and furniture. 

He said he returned to his spot at the Savannah last week to see all of his art missing. 

When he asked around, he was told that they had been confiscated by the city police - further calls revealed that they had been dumped, he said. 

He said the cost of the goods was approximately $20,000.

Martinez agrees that his work should not have been destroyed, and even if he was not within the law, he should have been given a chance to pursue the legal route. 

"If the gentleman was not operating legally, you approach him and ask him to move and desist from selling there, and if he wants to ply his trade then we can (make arrangements to) accommodate him somewhere else."

He said however that the Savannah is not a suitable place for vending.  

"The Savannah, the roundabout is not the place to be, but I apologise for how it was done. I thought that the police had given him instructions to move and that was the end of it. I was not aware that an exercise of confiscation and damage took place."

Martinez adds that he is also a supporter of local art and is against the destruction of items even if persons are vending illegally.

"I'm against destroying anybody's items, whether it be art, produce or clothing, that is not my position, because people paid money for these things, a certain amount of work would have gone into it."

"Whether they went about  it illegally, that is still not the humane way to deal with it."

"I think our police service sometimes needs to be a little more fairhanded in the way with which they handle situations like this."

"I think he should have been given the opportunity to move his items."

"We don't walk up and destroy things like that, we give notice, and we have a process of law to follow."

He said however if vendors desist after being asked to move, then there would be a different process.

Martinez is asking Agostini to contact him at the mayor's office so that he can remedy the situation.

"I would love to get in touch with the gentleman, and meet with him, so I can personally apologise to him," he said.