Regent Street vendors ousted
Stage protest march, picket City Hall

By Desiree Jodah
Stabroek News
October 1, 2000

Over 150 Regent Street vendors yesterday besieged City Hall after staging a protest march through city streets to vent their anger at having their stalls dismantled by the Mayor and City Council (M&CC).

Regent Street was almost unrecognisable yesterday, with the absence of stalls, most of which had encumbered the pavement. Regent Street vendors turned up yesterday morning to find their stalls gone, and some complained that city constables even went into private compounds and dismantled stalls there. A City Hall press statement issued yesterday said that the M&CC had removed the stalls which were encumbering Regent Street at 6:00 am yesterday, in accordance with a decision of the High Court made last week.

The release recalled that Georgetown Mayor Hamilton Green had met representatives of the street vending community since 1994 and discussed certain proposals to advance their interests and those of the city. "The vendors made certain commitments, including... undertaking to ensure the integrity of their immediate business environment. However, these were honoured in the breach on the part of the vendors. In the circumstances, the council welcomes the decision of the court..."

Green, in an invited comment yesterday said that the council would continue the process of bringing order to the city. He mentioned another discussion with the Regent Street vendors last year, noting that just as they were about to reach an agreement, the vendors went to the High Court and obtained an injunction against the council, which prevented City Hall from carrying out its statutory duty. Green said that some business people had also obtained injunctions against the M&CC, mandating it to carry out its statutory duties and remove vendors who were blocking the entrances of legitimate businesses. He said that during last week the injunction obtained by the vendors was dismissed, paving the way for the M&CC to do "its business."

The mayor said that there had been an increase in the number of vendors selling on Regent Street, in the last year. He said that vendors were supposed to ensure that no new vendors set up on Regent Street. However, they were unable to control this situation which became chaotic.

Vendors who claimed that they were not given any notice about the council's intended actions braved the hot sun to walk through the streets bearing placards. Some of the placards read: "Total disrespect, no notice"; "We had no notice that we cannot sell"; "I want to sell, selling is my living"; "This is an attack on the poor"; and "They have no jobs for us, what will we do now, Hammie".

The very vocal vendors spent a short time in front of Freedom House shouting for President Bharrat Jagdeo to come out and speak with them. They were persuaded to leave after they were told that the President was not in the country and that someone would speak with them at City Hall.

The loud but peaceful protest march then made its way to City Hall. There they kept up their chants as most stuck to the rule and kept moving. Vendors prevented a truck from leaving the City Hall compound. Three city constables armed with rifles, took up position in front of the Regent Street entrance of City Hall prompting the vendors to dare them to shoot.

As the midday sun beamed down on the chanting vendors, the least fit ones departed leaving a few of their colleagues behind, while city constables remained stationed at strategic locations along Regent Street.

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