Lindeners protest over poverty, other grouses
Police fire tear gas after attacked

Stabroek News
June 22, 2001

Protesters in Linden yesterday hurled bottles at the police who fired back tear gas at them as hundreds took to the streets over the perceived lack of interest in the town by government.

There were no reports of injuries.

A group of representatives from Linden is scheduled to meet with President Bharrat Jagdeo today to discuss how their concerns could be addressed.

The protest was led by the Region Ten Forest Producers Association and supported by the Guyana Mining, Metal & General Workers Union, another union and members of the Linden business community.

An alleged racial slur hurled at members of the Region Ten FPA recently led to an attempt by the association to "shut down" all activities at Linden yesterday.

This they say, is to protest against the shabby handling of Linden by the administration and the deplorable state of the region.

The exercise was scheduled to commence at 7:00 hrs yesterday, however, it got started after 11:00 hrs. This was blamed on the inclement weather condition.

They protested under banners which read "We in Linden can do it," "Give us one hundred land dredges and we will do it," "If you can't help us to do it then stop the Brazilians from mining our gold and diamond illegally," "Over 700 million dollars leave Kurupung monthly by Brazilian miners," "This does not contribute to our society," and "If we can't work then we must surely thief."

The protesters called on the government to meet their demands for: the release of one thousand acres of forested land to allow for job creation; creation of new industries in the region; recapitalisation and reorganisation of the bauxite industry; the proper handling of the Linden water treatment and distribution plant.

The demonstrators are also calling for disciplinary action to be taken against the Guyana Forestry Commission officer who is accused of making racial slurs against Afro-Guyanese.

According to reports, the incident occurred during a meeting the officer had recently with the Region Ten FPA which was called to sort out matters concerning the availability of land.

The group is also peeved over an order by the officer that their cut lumber be seized while they were in the process of getting their produce sold.

The situation got ugly at around 15:45 hrs when the protesters blocked the Linden/Soesdyke Highway in the vicinity of Kara Kara by parking an open back truck and a Pajero jeep across the road.

In an attempt to remove the blockade, the police ranks of the E&F Division in Linden were attacked and pelted with drink bottles.

This forced the ranks to release cans of tear gas into the crowd which remained unmoved.

Earlier in the day youth activist and leader of the 21st Century Youth Movement, Norman Browne, accompanied by several others attempted to create a blockade by lying across the road but were persuaded to wait for the right time.

Brown told this newspaper that the change being sought can only come about, not only by pressuring the PPP/C, but also by addressing seriously the role being played by the PNC/R leaders of Linden.

At around 17:00 hrs the protesters decided to abandon the initial plan of protesting along the Linden/Soesdyke Highway in the vicinity of Kara Kara area and took to the streets of McKenzie, Wismar and Christianburg, this time under the banner "Poverty is worse than slavery, let's destroy it."

The march increased from about two hundred persons to over seventeen hundred. The Linden police were with the protesters throughout the march to ensure there was no disturbance or violence.

However, while protesters were moving along the corners of Green Heart Street and Republic Avenue, a group of town police attached to the Linden Town Council was attacked by an unruly mob.

They were pelted with broken bottles but there were no visible injuries to the officers.

Some sixty-four vehicles drove along in support of the protest.

The protesters expressed anger that Mayor Stan Smith was not in support of the protest and while passing his business place on Republic Avenue they hurled a number of slurs against him.

Throughout the march they were singing the trades union battle song Solidarity Forever. After the march they returned to the Kara Kara area where the protest ended.

On Wednesday night, Prime Minister Sam Hinds, on a live show on GTV 11/Linden, said in no uncertain terms that if the officer accused of hurling the racial slurs is found guilty he will be severely dealt with. But he asserted that the accusation must be proven.

Chief Executive Officer of the Linden Mining Enterprise, Horace James was also on television appealing to his workers not to down tools since this could have adverse effects on the company.

The European Union-funded Linden Economic Advancement Project worth $2 billion is expected to get underway soon in the region. It includes a credit fund, vocational training and the setting up of business incubation machinery.