City warns against vending at condemned building
Constables, vendors clash

By Desiree Jodah
Stabroek News
October 19, 2000

The Mayor and City Council (M&CC) has warned that persons selling and purchasing items under a condemned building at the corner of Regent and Wellington streets were doing so at their own risk.

Some of vendors who have been barred from selling on Regent Street following the dismissal of an injunction which they had obtained against the M&CC, had taken up position under the condemned building. From there they hawk their wares, disregarding the danger posed by the dilapidated structure. The vendors clashed yesterday with members of the City Constabulary as the city police attempted remove items displayed for sale under the old building.

The M&CC, in a press statement yesterday, said that it was alarmed that some of the vendors had set up stalls under the building which the City's Engineer Department had deemed unsafe and dangerous.

The M&CC said that the necessary statutory notices were dispatched to the owner to demolish the offending structure and warned those occupying it and attempting to make purchase there that they were doing so at their own risk.

The council said that in keeping with agreements reached at a meeting with its officials and vendors which was facilitated by President Bharrat Jagdeo, 86 vendors were expected to take up space on Orange Walk and Bourda Street between Regent and Charlotte streets by next Monday.

Work is also continuing on the Merriman's Mall between Orange Walk and Light Street for the relocation of the vendors.

Meanwhile, the approximately 16 constables got more than they bargained for from the almost 100 vendors who gathered in an angry mob. A number of the constables carried rifles and handguns, but they were thwarted by the unarmed vendors with the exception of one female who had a piece of wood in her hand. The sellers brazenly defied the constables who turned up in a truck while the vendors were busy placing palettes across the drain in front of the building to continue their trade.

The vendors' mood had changed from the last two weeks when they protested peacefully by marching on Regent Street and camping out in front of City Hall. Yesterday some cried victimisation by officials of City Hall, and one female was heard saying that if the officials "victimised" vendors, vendors would "victimise" the officials' families.

The sellers were also glum after Justice Carl Singh set October 25, for arguments into the hearing of an application by them for a stay of the execution of his order which allowed the council to remove sellers. The matter was called for report yesterday. They claimed that time was running out for them and they were not getting any money to feed their children or send them to school. The vendors have been off the road since September 30, when the M&CC dismantled their stalls.

During the confrontation some members of the City Constabulary displayed a lack of professionalism in dealing with the vendors. While a few remained stern, others behaved as though they were attending a comedy show. Some laughed heartily at disparaging remarks made by a vendor about Town Clerk Beulah Williams.

One bold female vendor put her hand through the driver's side window of the Constabulary truck and struggled with the male constable for something in his pocket. The constable obviously thought it was a joke as he kept grinning the entire time. Finally, up came the hand of the woman from within the truck with a piece of paper much to the delight of the crowd.

The constables were continuously taunted by the vendors who had among their supporters well-known protestor Archie Poole and former Straight Up talk show host Mark Benschop.

And while spokesperson for the vendors Mansa Amin was waiting for the matter to be called yesterday morning, members of the M&CC went to his stall in Orange Walk and removed a quantity of sand and cement.

Amin, crying "victimisation", said he had purchased the materials to build a concrete strip in front of his stall at Orange Walk.

He claimed that materials were not on the roadway, but next to his stall. Stabroek News was unable to make contact with the City Engineers Department which reportedly ordered the removal of the building materials.

Vendors vowed that they would continue to sell on Regent Street until the Christmas season was over.

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