Street protesters again disrupt city business

Guyana Chronicle
April 24, 2001

BUSINESS activities were yesterday again disrupted along Regent Street when supporters of the main Opposition People's National Congress Reform (PNC/R) continued targeting stores in their bid to stop persons from carrying out their trade in the city.

Though the size of the group of protesters has grown significantly smaller from last week, store owners on Regent Street and some other parts of the city hurriedly closed their doors following the demands of the demonstrators who started moving through the streets at about 11:00 hrs.

They had earlier moved off from the 1763 Monument Square but while a more organised group, of about 50 persons, marched along Brickdam and other city streets, another group of about 10 moved through Regent Street chanting "Anywhere open, shut them down!"

In some instances, they stopped in front of stores that remained open and loudly continued chanting until the owners adhered to their commands.

As they moved further down the street, some store owners reopened their doors but some others remained closed.

Some shoppers in the area hurriedly joined buses to get out of the protesters' way but others stood their ground and noted that that small number of persons was insufficient to cause any trouble.

The group of PNC/R demonstrators had vowed to stop business activities in the city Saturday when they began ordering store owners to shut their stores and go home.

They had managed to stop several stores along Regent Street from doing business.

Persons vending in Bourda Market were Saturday also forced to abandon business activities and the market eventually closed by the City Constabulary just after noon, when the small group of protesters moved through the city.

Yesterday too, Bourda Market was closed for the day unusually early reportedly as a result of the activities by the protesters on the street.

Persons in this area complained that they are being prevented from doing business and that they are being severely affected.

Some said they have responsibilities, including bills to pay and children to care for and cannot afford to turn up for business for a few persons to make this impossible.

One businessman appealed for some sort of effective action to be taken to put an end to the current situation.

There were no reports of violence on the streets during the protests yesterday and some bystanders felt this may have been because of the presence of the police.

Armed police ranks were deployed at strategic points along Regent Street and an officer said they were "trying to prevent problems".

There were reportedly no problems since the small group of protesters quickly disappeared among shoppers and other citizens along Regent Street until the police left.

Traffic was redirected in the vicinity of Regent and Alexander streets and the Bourda Market when the police took up positions across Regent Street.

Even pedal cyclists and pedestrians were stopped by the police from venturing into this area during the exercise.

The PNC/R Saturday distanced itself from incidents by some of the protesters saying it "will not condone any acts of vandalism and violent attacks on citizens by persons who use its protest actions as a cover for such behaviour."

"It vows to increase its vigilance in order to preserve its good name and ensure that order is maintained during its protest exercises", the PNC/R had said Saturday.

PNC/R demonstrators who said they were marching against "disenfranchisement, discrimination, police brutality and for equal opportunity", had previously stayed away from the business community, especially along Regent Street.