Vendor shot dead on Robb St

Stabroek News
April 10, 2001

A Water Street vendor and a mother of seven daughters was shot dead on Robb Street yesterday afternoon, while escaping pellets fired by the police.

A man, who also suffered gunshot wounds during the same incident, was admitted to the Georgetown Public Hospital.

Dead is Donna McKinnon, 43, of Lot 3 Tucville Squatting area, who according to her reputed husband, had gone to the area to witness the fire which was raging in Regent and Robb streets at the time.

Suffering from a gunshot wound to the lumbar region (lower back) and admitted to the hospital was Ramnarine Bhoda, 35, of 177 Waterloo Street.

According to medical sources, McKinnon was pronounced dead on arrival at the Georgetown Public Hospital where her body was taken shortly after 6:00 pm yesterday. She received multiple gunshot wounds in the head, chest and the right leg.

Her reputed husband, Brian Caesar told this newspaper last night that he and McKinnon had gone to the corner of Wellington and Robb streets to see the fire and were under the Metropole Cinema when the police from the Target Special Force arrived and fired shots into the air. Eyewitnesses said that an unidentified person was also firing shots from the top floor of Freedom House - headquarter of the PPP/Civic - with a handgun. Freedom House officials could not be contacted last night to respond to this charge. Hearing the gunshots, Caesar said, people began to run in all directions. McKinnon, he said, ran in one direction and he in another. He said that was the last time he saw her alive.

Caesar said that after the shooting incident at Robb and Wellington streets he went home to Tucville. On arrival, he was told that she was at the Georgetown Hospital. He went to the hospital accompanied by her daughters, who had packed a change of clothing and snacks for her. On arrival at the hospital they were told that she had died.

McKinnon is survived by her seven daughters - Nicola and Shaundell of French Guiana, Simone, Soffina, Omadelle, Shenella and Shwina.

PNC/R leaders, some 20 protesters injured in clashes with police

The demonstrations against the re-appointment of Dr Roger Luncheon as Head of the Presidential Secretariat escalated yesterday as police clashed with protesters outside of the Office of the President.

The police reported 27 arrests including Chairman of the PNC/R, Robert Corbin, and Chairman of its REFORM section, Jerome Khan.

Both Corbin and Khan were injured during the protest with Corbin suffering a fractured right shin and Khan, torn ligaments and a fractured rib. They were both treated at the Georgetown Public Hospital and sent away.

A traffic policeman, Troy Phillips, and about 20 protesters were also injured during the melee, which erupted after members of the Police Force's Tactical Services Unit (Riot Squad) attempted to disperse the crowd in front of the Presidential Secretariat.

Among those injured with shotgun pellets and treated at the Georgetown Public Hospital and sent away were a 74-year-old icicle vendor Marie Harris and a 64-year-old man, Cedric Junor. Others injured similarly were Brian Blair, 36; Lloyd McKenzie, 29; Orin Stephen, 21; Mark Wong, 24; Godfrey Williams, 35; Rafeek Alli 41; Vibert Mitchell, 40; Patrick Thomas, 35; Melroy Sealey, 30; Mark Welch, 16; Kwanza Hollingsworth, 20; Carl Clarkson, 27; Lawrence Sealey, 35; Cornell Alfred, 38; June Singh, 38; Andrea Marks, 33; and Barbara Elliot, 45.

Others suffering contusions and fractured limbs were Clairmont Jarvis, Grace Ann Westford, Joan Bavaghems and Phillip Chase.

Protesters blocked off Regent and New Garden streets, preventing the flow of traffic and a car wreck was upturned further down Regent Street.

Fires were lit sporadically in various sections of the city, which kept firemen and police busy throughout the day. A major blaze erupted later in the afternoon when Kissoon's Furniture City was allegedly set on fire by arsonists.

The majority of the 200-strong demonstrators took up positions on the bridge leading to the New Garden Street entrance of the Presidential Secretariat, while others manned the Vlissengen Road entrance.

The demonstrators sang hymns and generally milled about as police ranks monitored the area. At about 1015 hrs, a Riot Squad troop, armed to the teeth, arrived on the scene.

Two officers accompanied by three ranks approached the protesters on the bridge and ordered them to go to their homes or lawful places of business.

The protesters paid no heed and the five policemen went further onto the bridge where an officer spoke to Corbin, who was lying on the bridge, asking him to advise the protesters to vacate the area. The crowd objected to this and the rest of the Riot Squad troop, standing at the Regent Street corner, was signalled to advance on the demonstrators.

Corbin, Khan and the other demonstrators remained steadfast on the bridge. Seeing this, the police attempted to remove them physically and, when the demonstrators resisted, proceeded to fire upon them.

Most of the demonstrators scattered in all directions but Corbin and Khan remained unmoved.

Khan afterwards told Stabroek News that the police dealt Corbin several blows about the body with a baton. About eight or nine women covered his body with theirs to ward off the blows. When the police opened fire, he said that he ran towards Corbin to see if he was shot but he was not. He said that both he and Corbin were placed in vehicles but some women jumped into the vehicle as well. The police, he said allowed the women to travel to the station where they too were arrested.

An elderly woman was dragged to the same vehicle and placed inside. One man, who was thrown into the back of the truck had a bloodied face and his back was transformed to a bright red from shotgun pellet wounds.

Corbin, who also spoke with this newspaper at the Georgetown Public Hospital, said that though they had informed the police that they were injured since noon yesterday they did not receive any medical attention until late in the afternoon.

Shortly after the demonstrators were removed from the Presidential Secretariat, members of the Target Special Force swooped on the scene in a pick-up truck, almost hitting down reporters and members of the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU).

They screamed expletives and fired several shots, which were later discovered to be live rounds, and cleared the area of the few persons who were still there at the time. Several spent shells of the live rounds were recovered by personnel from the GPSU.

One section of the protesters had followed the persons arrested to the police station, while another group, numbering over 100, remained at Regent and New Garden streets.

There they blocked traffic and pounded on vehicles which attempted to pass the human barricade.

Major Claudius Vaughn, an employee of the nearby Ministry of Foreign Affairs had the back windscreen of his car smashed during the violence.

The group then proceeded to the Ministry of Agriculture, located next to the Presidential Secretariat, where they called on workers to leave the premises. The employees vacated their workstations just before Target Special Force made another raid of the area.

The protesters were ordered to leave the ministry's premises and they made their way down Regent Street.

Stores and other businesses were ordered closed by the protesters. Most businesses complied. But when they reached Sears, at Regent and Alexander streets, the security officer there was not so amenable. This resulted in two large glass windows on one of the upper floors being destroyed by missiles thrown from the crowd.

Fires were set in the vicinity of Bourda Market but were quickly put out by ranks from the City Constabulary. Afterwards, some members of the crowd who were on South Road awaiting word on those arrested, stoned the offices of the Catholic Standard newspaper. This was prompted by elements who said that a talk-show host, whose views they did not agree with, was on the premises.

Meanwhile, the Guyana Action Party/Working People's Alliance (GAP/WPA) issued a press release yesterday condemning the action taken by the police.

"It is perhaps the first time in our political history, at least in half a century, that a picket whether silent or vigorous and noisy, was met with an armed police assault -- with gunfire on demonstrators," the two-party alliance stated.

GAP/WPA said the police action was "clearly calculated in cold blood to provoke the masses who support the PNC REFORM."

The alliance charged that the action was also ultimately intended to sabotage the intention of the PPP/C and the PNC/R to start talks. The development was in conflict with President Bharrat Jagdeo's assurances of inclusiveness, the release said.

Buxtonians block roads again

Residents at Buxton yesterday blocked access to their village by lighting fires across roads which kept police busy up to late last night when checks were made by Stabroek News.

The incidents at the East Coast Demerara village were of a lesser magnitude than those which occurred on March 22, when several persons were injured during clashes with the police.

Reports claimed that the incidents were sparked by policemen who went into the village on Sunday night and intimidated persons at Brush Dam, who were on the road.

At about 0300 hrs yesterday the villagers began to light fires in several areas.

Initially, access was cut off from the cross streets in the village itself.

But after word spread of the incidents in Georgetown yesterday morning, reports state, tyres and other debris were placed on the East Coast Public Road and the railway embankment road.

The police approached the situation in a more cautious manner than previously adopted which, reports said, kept the disorder to a minimum.

Villagers said gunshots from the police could have been heard as late as 2230 hrs yesterday.

Fire-fighters have a busy day

Mystery fires at Supreme Court, Moen McDoom's office contained

By Samantha Alleyne

Even before the raging fire in the heart of the city yesterday, several places were targeted by small blazes of unknown origin.

One such place was the building that houses the office of Senior Counsel Moen McDoom, who was a commissioner on the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM)during the last elections.

When Stabroek News visited that Croal and King streets building, which also houses the offices of several other lawyers, fire- fighters were breaking down the door of the building so they could gain access. No one was in the building at the time.

This newspaper understands that a burning object was thrown into the building through a window, which was broken by a person or persons unknown.

The exterior of the building was scorched in several places and the walls on the inside were severely affected. But quick action by the fire service saw little damage being done.

One fire worker exited the building with a burning floor mat and a bin and it was suspected that the burning object fell into the bin, which was resting on the mat.

Speaking briefly to Stabroek News, a visibly upset Mc Doom said he felt that he was the one that was targeted because he served on the commission. "That is how you are repaid when you serve your country," he said. He continued by stating that because some persons were dissatisfied they felt that they had to make other people's lives uncomfortable.

At the time Mc Doom was unable to gain access to his office as the doors were locked and his keys were not in his possession, but he was optimistic that no real damage was done.

And just across the road the Supreme Court Law Library was also targeted.

This newspaper understands that a burning barrel was thrown into the library, which was empty at the time.

Fire-fighters and police officers on the scene were puzzled as to how the security guards stationed at the gate in front of the library were unable to shed any light on how the fire was started and did not see the perpetrators.

The fire-fighters, along with employees of the library and the members of the police force were able to quickly put the fire out resulting in little damage being done. These fires started at around 3 pm.

The Supreme Court Law Library was set up just over a year ago, with grant aid from the United States Agency for International Development.

The fire service was also called to another mystery fire at the Queenstown Community High School at around 1 pm. The blaze destroyed a bookcase, which was under the back stairway of the school. The bookcase had held numerous school records, all of which were destroyed.

Some students of the school who were taking lessons at the time said they noticed smoke and upon investigation saw the bookcase ablaze.

The students, along with teachers, quickly formed a bucket brigade and had the small fire under control before the fire-fighters arrived. Students of the St Gabriel's Primary School who were playing in the ground opposite the school also assisted in putting the fire out.

This newspaper understands that a small fire was also started near to the Strand Cinema, which is located at the corner of Charlotte and Wellington streets.