Market vendors attacked, robbed -- stalls looted

by Andrew Richards
and Kester Morris
Stabroek News
June 17, 1999

The three municipal markets in the city and businesses along Regent Street slammed their doors shut around midday yesterday as a roving band of men embarked on a looting spree which resulted in the arrest of seven persons.

A police press release issued yesterday afternoon stated that "these elements who moved around on bicycles and on foot have been associated with previous protests and are not public servants."

Closer to 1:00 pm, a large group of persons assembled at the corner of Regent and King streets where a few policemen were stationed. A few persons from the group taunted the policemen who were standing on the pavement in front of Amin's Esso Service Station.

A prominent member of the PNC was heard telling those gathered not to throw remarks at the policemen. After about 20 minutes they rejoined the others in the group standing in front of Acme Photo Studio. The group later disbanded.

Stabroek News understands that at around noon a group of some 30 people ran through the Stabroek Market looting and intimidating stall holders. Vendors outside the market said that the group spent around 20 minutes in the market which they entered through one of the two gates that were open. The police arrived soon after and arrested one of the crowd. The others reportedly made their escape through the gate at the back of the market.

According to the vendors, the crowd snatched items off the stalls of several vendors and scattered the goods of many others. One man whom Stabroek News spoke to theorised that the group was the same one which was earlier involved in an altercation with the police just outside the market. According to the man, some members of the police force had fired shots and the group had fled into the market.

None of the other vendors this newspaper spoke with held similar views. Most expressed the opinion that the group was related to groups which had run through the market on other occasions, causing similar havoc.

At around 12:30 pm, a band of about 20 persons entered La Penitence Market and robbed three vendors of their morning sales with the aid of mace and knives.

Relating the incident to Stabroek News, Shirley Vernon, who had been a vendor there for 30 years, said the group descended upon them unexpectedly. She said she was sitting on a chair by her stall playing with another stallholder's baby when a man passed and shouted: "Dey comin'."

Vernon said that before she could react, the criminals were already in the market and the noxious substance was sprayed at them. The vendor said the mace impeded her vision and she was not able to make out the faces of the robbers.

The baby, too, was affected by the mace and ran away screaming, she said. Two men attacked her and struggled to get off her apron containing the cash from the morning's sales.

Vernon said she tried to fight the men off but they were joined by another accomplice and eventually succeeded in removing the apron with about $20,000.

Another victim of the attack, Nadira Narine, said they had just finished having lunch when the incident occurred. After the alarm was raised that the band was on its way, Narine said, she went to the entrance to look for them and was greeted by a man who sprayed the mace at her. She tried to run away from her attacker but he chased behind her and whipped out a knife, the vendor said.

Fearing for her life, she untied the apron containing some $5,000 in cash and handed it over to the thief.

Narine told this newspaper that another stallholder who was robbed had to close up her stall and take away the baby for medical treatment.

The police release said the group of "protesters" ran into Stabroek and Bourda markets and snatched up articles as they passed. They also attacked and robbed shoppers and stall holders.

Many shops along Regent Street and other areas in the city did not open for business yesterday and there was disruption to the transportation sector, where especially the route 40 mini-buses did not work, the police said.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples