President's car stoned

By Desiree Jodah
Stabroek News
February 27, 1998

A Police woman was rushed to the hospital after she was hit in the chest with a stone thrown from an unruly crowd in front of Parliament Building yesterday. This was confirmed by Commissioner of Police Laurie Lewis.

The convening of the Seventh Parliament yesterday at 2.00 pm saw a small crowd of about 50 persons gathered in front of Parliament buildings. This number swelled to about 400 between 2.30 and 3.30 pm. They stood on Brickdam shouting slogans of "Janet must go,"and" We want Desmond." The People's National Congress (PNC) has since disassociated itself from the demonstration. According to a release from the PNC, the party said that it remained committed to the CARICOM Accord and to its agreement under the accord to honour an immediate moratorium on public demonstrations and marches for the minimum specified period of three months from January 17, 1998.

At 2.00 pm the crowd, after being cautioned by the police, toned down their chanting for about five minutes. On their resumption they were even more vociferous as a growing number of people including school children joined in. As they taunted the few police on duty, the school children took to the front of the crowd and joined the adults in the chanting. One man bearing a long piece of cardboard with some undecipherable writing walked up and down the stretch of road in front of the Public Buildings.

The chanting continued, and picked up pace at about 3.00 p.m when the strains of the Guyana Defence Force band was heard as it preceded the First Infantry Battalion, Second Infantry Battalion Reserve and the Women's Army Corp led by Major Lester Reid along Brickdam. The chanting was drowned by the army band as they made their way into the compound of the Parliament buildings and took up their positions to be inspected by President Jagan.

Members of Parliament, old and new and special invitees who included Prime Ministers of Grenada and Barbados Keith Mitchell and Owen Arthur as well as heads of the various diplomatic missions in Guyana, assembled in the corridor of the Parliament building to view the guard of honour. At about 3.15 as several horse guards with their riders dressed in ceremonial wear trotted into view the crowd knew that the President was on her way.

Before the out-numbered police realised what was happening, a man broke away from the crowd and ran in front of the horses which were followed by the outriders and then the President's car. He successfully dodged the horses and the outriders and was in front of the President's car frantically waving his hands when he was snatched by a policeman and pulled out of the roadway. As if this was a signal for the crowd to get into action, they broke down the wooden barriers, forcing the hapless police out of their way. They ran towards the moving the car which by this time had turned into Brickdam. The small number of police backed up by the horse guards managed to impose some order long enough for the President's car to make its way safely into the compound, as the crowd ran helter skelter in their struggle with the police. A policewoman was struck with one of the trestles that was used for the barriers as she wrestled with some aggressive members of the crowd.

President Jagan dressed in a dark blue skirt suit trimmed with white, and brown sandals was accompanied by Brigadier Joe Singh, her Aide de Camp Major Francis Abraham and Captain David Foo. She took the salute and inspected the Guard of Honour against the background of chanting on the street.

About an hour later, the crowd once again reacted to the sight of President Jagan, this time more violently, creating more trouble for the police who surprisingly did not seem to have got any back-up following the first incident.

Again with the special invitees watching, the President's security force was tested. As Mrs Jagan appeared in front of the building, the crowd now armed with several buckets which they used as drums, as well as stones and bottles, began to chant loudly, "Janet must go", "We want Desmond," as well as some vulgarities.

Security vehicles, the eight horse guards and three outriders were used in an attempt to separate the crowd from the President's car.

President Jagan, seemingly unflustered by all that was going on around her, calmly got into her car which drove out of the compound and onto Brickdam heading east into Avenue of the Republic flanked on the left by a white landrover carrying the President's security personnel, which was almost forced the crowd to remain on the pavement, with the help of the horse guards, and on the left by another security vehicle. The car sped off hotly pursued by the crowd.

Several stones and bottles were thrown by members of the crowd at the President's car. One of the missiles hit woman police Inspector Slowe in the chest. She had to be rushed to the hospital for medical attention.

The crowd, unable to get close to the president's car on Brickdam, divided, and went in several directions hoping to outsmart the security. As the car sped along Brickdam a part of the crowd sprinted around the corner by Demico Quick Serv and east into Croal Street, but to no avail. By the time they got to the corner of Croal Street and Avenue of the Republic, the car had already passed. Those who ran after the vehicle were soon left behind. The ones who ran east along South road, north along King Street and east into Robb Street heading towards Freedom House were also disappointed since the President was not there. Those heading along Avenue of the Republic in pursuit of the car also had to give up the chase.