PNC REFORM demonstrators 'close down' Regent Street
GTV crew harassed

Stabroek News
April 22, 2001

A largely peaceful PNC REFORM demonstration on Regent Street was marred yesterday by the harassment of a GTV camera crew and the intimidation of several shopkeepers.

The march against 'disenfranchisement, discrimination, police brutality and for equal opportunity' attracted around 70 supporters who assembled at the Square of the Revolution from 9.30 am under slight rain.

An address to the demonstrators by Ivan Peters before the commencement of the march urged the demonstrators to "exercise our discipline in order to avoid any embarrassment.

"Our objective is equality for all people," he said and asked the marshals present to ensure there were no unnecessary disruptions.

The march then began its route towards and up Regent Road, Bourda, and into the centre of the city. A constant drumbeat led the chants of "no justice, no peace" and "no business as usual."

The group progressed peacefully towards the city centre past boarded up businesses and a few interested bystanders. However, a small number of individuals occasionally broke free to enforce the shutting down of all shops in the vicinity.

This intimidation met with some disapproval from bystanders and a brief but violent altercation broke out between a small group of the protestors and some residents in the region of Oronoque and Regent streets. The altercation was broken up by other demonstrators and the march continued towards Camp Street. However, as the march retraced its course after midday, the same group of residents provoked the protesters again and another altercation was only avoided by the quick intervention of other residents and peaceful demonstrators.

Further problems occurred at Bourda market where the protestors demanded the closing of the market. The procession halted until stallholders within the enclosed section of the market had started to close their stalls.

As the march approached the corner of Alexander and Regent streets, a number of protestors broke away from the main group again and attacked a GTV minibus parked outside Sears. The cameraman, producer and driver were all harassed by the group.

A spokesperson for GTV told Stabroek News yesterday that "a camera unit was on duty this morning to cover the protest.

"The team was expecting a peaceful protest," the spokesperson stated, "but was met with cries from a small number of persons of 'we don't want any cameras'."

It is alleged that during the harassment, an individual placed a large knife to the chest of the cameraman, seated in the bus, and he was consequently relieved of his camera, his press pass and a sum of money. The incident was broken up by a group of bystanders and the individuals concerned retreated with the camera.

The driver and some public-spirited citizens chased after the culprits and retrieved the camera although a battery and microphone were not recovered. The spokesperson for GTV said that the cameraman was "shaken" but unharmed.

The march continued peacefully without major incidents to the corner of Avenue of the Republic and Regent Street. At this junction, a number of the demonstrators wished to carry their protest towards Stabroek Market. However, the organisers pleaded with the group to stay on Regent Street. "We don't want our people shot," explained one of the leaders, "let's stick to Regent!"

Throughout the march police intervention was not deemed necessary, although a team from Impact monitored proceedings closely as the group returned to the Square of the Revolution and a number of foot patrols stood watch at several corners along the way.

A police spokesperson told Stabroek News that the march was not authorised and the police hoped that there would be no major incidents.

A vigil was due to be held at the Square of the Revolution last night.