Woman shot dead on Robb St laid to rest
Freedom House, President's residence pelted

Stabroek News
April 19, 2001

The woman whose shooting death on Robb Street on April 9 has stoked tension in the city was laid to rest yesterday after day-long ceremonies that were marred by the pelting of the headquarters of the PPP/Civic (PPP/C) and the President's residence.

At the latter location, shots were fired in the air by presidential guards to ward off the people who were pelting. No one was injured.

Donna McKinnon, 43, was killed just outside Freedom House - the headquarters of the PPP/C on April 9, while ten buildings burned on Regent and Robb streets. The circumstances of her shooting remain unclear (see other story on page one) and the police have said very little on it.

The stoning incidents yesterday raised the ire of some of McKinnon's relatives and friends in the procession who said there were some "stupid" persons in the gathering bent on creating mischief. Despite all the pleadings by the organisers of the funeral, persons still resorted to smashing several windows at Freedom House.

The procession had moved off from the Square of the Revolution at around 1.30 pm and made its way down Brickdam. McKinnon's casket was draped in a PNC REFORM (PNC/R) flag and was transported by a truck. Several banners, calling for justice and the disbandment of the Target Special Force, and carried by members of the procession, led the way.

The procession wended its way to the Avenue of the Republic and Robb Street, where there was some confusion at the intersection. A section of the procession turned onto Robb Street, stating that they had to pass the spot where McKinnon was killed. Another section, consisting of relatives and the truck bearing McKinnon's casket, insisted that the procession follow the original route along Church Street. Minutes elapsed, by which time a large section was already making its way down Robb Street. The other section eventually gave in and followed, to loud cheers and hand clapping.

Members of the crowd threw aside police barricades blocking off Robb Street at both King and Wellington streets.

A large portion of the procession took up positions outside Freedom House and hurled loud abuse at anyone in the building who would listen. The building was closed up except for the door at the front entrance where one man stood in the doorway. He bore the brunt of the abuse but retreated inside when persons began pelting objects.

There was a small group of policemen nearby but there was no attempt to confront the crowd. Rocks, bottles, pieces of iron and wood were thrown at the building. A few windows were smashed and a vehicle damaged.

Organisers of the procession managed to get the situation under control and the crowd moved on.

They passed the Bourda Market which had only about six stalls open, then turned into Orange Walk and into Church Street. From there they turned into Peter Rose Street and into Forshaw Street where President Jagdeo resides. Police barriers there, too, were brushed aside as the procession made its way through.

Presidential guards, guns at the ready, were visible in the compound and even on the fence.

A few persons stood in front of the residence and taunted the guards who showed no inclination to respond. But they were soon joined by others who persisted and eventually bottles and stones were thrown at the security men. These persons were being urged by others to desist and move along towards Irving Street. The pleas were ignored until shots were fired in the air from within the compound of the residence. Immediately members of the procession dived for cover, some running over each other in their haste to get away from the gunshots. There were no reports of any injuries.

The procession eventually regrouped on Irving Street, where a motorcade - which included motorcycles and bicycles - assembled and made its way along the East Coast Demerara public road for Golden Grove, where McKinnon's body was interred.

Earlier in the day, McKinnon's body was removed from the Merriman's Funeral Parlour and taken to her home in Tucville, before being laid at the Square of the Revolution for public viewing.

Several organisations paid tribute to her including the PNC/R, the Guyana Youth and Student Movement, the Guyana Congress of Women, the African Cultural and Development Association and the Justice for Jermaine Committee.

PNC/R leader Desmond Hoyte told the thousands gathered that McKinnon's death must not be in vain. He said it was everyone's individual and collective duty to ensure that justice was done.

Describing the dead woman as a symbol of the "struggle", Hoyte stated that her death should be a wake-up call for all. Rhetorically, he asked whether it was an "assassin's" bullet only which killed the woman or the system, which he said promoted lawlessness in the police force and discrimination and marginalisation for a particular section of the society.

Hoyte declared that there was a deafening silence from the authorities on the killing of McKinnon. He warned that history has its lessons - today it was one person and tomorrow it might be another.

Meanwhile, as the motorcade proceeded to McKinnon's final resting place, thousands of East Coast residents lined the route, forcing it to move at a snail's place through some villages. This occurred at Plaisance, Beterverwagting, Buxton and Melanie Damishana. There were very few other vehicles on the road.

At Buxton, residents stopped the motorcade and asked to view the body which further delayed the journey. Buxtonians then joined the procession, leading the way on foot with the motorcade following.

While the procession was mostly incident-free, some persons attempted to torch a lamppost which had a cup - the symbol of the PPP/Civic - attached, but the fire burnt itself out. One young man also tried to chop the post to bring it down with a cutlass but the wallaba proved too sturdy for his cutlass and he abandoned his attempt.

The funeral procession arrived at Golden Grove shortly before 6:00 pm, where the situation immediately became chaotic as no provision was in place for the volume of traffic which arrived. McKinnon's body was finally entombed at 6:55 pm. (Back to Top)

The circumstances surrounding the death of Mckinnon

Forty-three year old Donna McKinnon was one of the many curious persons who went to observe the fire which razed ten buildings in the shopping area between Regent and Robb Streets on April 9, according to her husband.

She left the area in the back of a police minivan after being discovered dead.

McKinnon, a vendor, died from gunshot wounds in the head, lower abdomen and the right foot.

No-one knows for sure how she met her death.

Her reputed husband, Brian Caesar, said the two of them were on the pavement by the Metropole cinema on Robb Street with hundreds of others who were looking on at the fire.

Caesar said suddenly members of the Target Special Squad descended upon the area firing shots wildly and the crowd scattered for cover.

This was a few minutes after 17:00 hrs.

Some persons dashed up Wellington Street towards Regent Street and some down towards Waterloo Street.

A small group was observed bolting to the empty lot next to Freedom House--headquarters of the ruling People's Progressive Party/Civic.

The members of the Target Special Squad had stopped firing since the area was cleared in a hurry but shots were still heard coming from the direction of the rear of Freedom House, according to an eyewitness.

The persons who ran into the empty lot, confused, apparently did not know where else to run.

Persons were seen on the back landing on the top floor of Freedom House and at least one man had a gun pointing downwards to the group which had fled to the empty lot, the eyewitness said.

When the shots were heard from the direction of Freedom House, a group of policemen (not the Target Special Squad) standing at the Robb and Wellington Street corner looked towards the landing and began gesticulating at the persons up there.

One man dressed in black clothes and headgear remained on the landing.

Bewildered bystanders began chattering among themselves about what they felt they had seen.

McKinnon's body was discovered around 18:30 hrs - about 90 minutes after the shooting under some galvanised sheets in the empty lot.

No-one has been arrested for her death but the police yesterday posted a $250,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrator/s.