July 8, 2002
On Friday, the police reported that while responding to a noise nuisance complaint the night before at the Campbellville Secondary School they were pelted by young people who were in the midst of a raucous celebration. Three of the youths were arrested. That these youths would have the gumption to set upon the police even while they were wrecking the peace and quiet that nearby residents were entitled to is most shocking. It is a sign of the dangerous deterioration in respect for the law.
In this highly charged political climate and the aura of fear created by desperate criminals, it is a development that has to be reversed and it will require the participation of all stakeholders. It will be an uphill task as the youths are soaking up the examples of criminality so readily exuded by people who should be role models, not committing crimes.
There was, of course, the infamous Wednesday march on the Office of the President. March is not the word to describe it. It was more like Attila the Hun’s mob sacking a captured city or the Mongols rampaging along the European steppes. At the end of it, offices in the presidential compound had been ravaged and employees threatened. Following the shooting deaths of two of the protesters within the presidential complex, the pillagers invaded the pavements of their famous whipping boy - Regent Street. Anyone unlucky to be caught in this gauntlet of savagery risked serious injury. Cars were overturned and set on fire. Arsonists then put their matches and fuel to two buildings, in one case forcing employees of one of the razed stores to jump for their lives out of a back entrance. It could have been April 9, 2001 all over again when many buildings on Regent and Robb streets were torched after arsonists went to work. Before the dust had settled, several attempts would be made to torch other buildings. Thankfully these failed.
But that wasn’t all. Persons caught in the path of the protesters were beaten while dozens at car parks and at markets were set upon and mugged. It has become a ritual that whenever protests occur, the criminals in their midst target the hapless commuters waiting at car parks and those in the market areas. It boggles the mind that the police are yet to put measures in place to provide protection at these points during unrest and to prevent these attacks which terrify and cause psychological trauma to the victims.
On Friday, there were two other distressing occurrences. A senior employee of Humphrey’s on Main Street was pelted with a brick and sustained serious injury. This attack was most likely related to an incident the day before when, according to the police, a man who had just left the store had been attacked by three robbers. The man who was attacked shot one of the robbers dead. Friday’s pelting incident was believed to have been retaliation for the fatal shooting.
Even more disturbing on Friday was the confrontation that occurred on the East Coast after a Buxtonian was suspected of committing a gross robbery and attack on a Non Pareil woman. The woman was terrorised, robbed and chopped. After raising an alarm, nearby residents chased the attacker to a house in the village of Strathspey. The occupants of the house refused to surrender the attacker and more than that, word was sent to the village of Buxton and dozens of Buxtonians descended on the area ostensibly to free the attacker. Why would the capture of a suspected criminal move Buxtonians to go to his `rescue’? After the police had apprehended the attacker and left the area, it was then that things got hairy. Buxtonians attacked Strathspey villagers who they believed had been responsible for the apprehension of the attacker. The Buxtonians said that they were fired at first. The villagers vehemently denied this. It was confirmed that several of the Buxtonians had weapons and a number of the villagers were badly beaten at their hands and a horse chopped. Why did the Buxtonians believe that they could engage in violence on other residents of the East Coast? It is this type of anarchical attack that is causing the fabric of our stressed society to fray at the seams. These Buxtonians, hopefully a small minority in their village, must accept that this type of community bullying will not work and that the police must be able to discharge their duties. Understandably, the entire village of Buxton is wary of the police following the Shaka Blair killing. The two sides however have to re-establish a relationship of trust. Friday’s standoff could easily have degenerated into a cycle of violence and retaliation that could have had deadly results.
The Buxtonians involved in Friday’s incident and sporadic acts of violence in recent months have to be provided with leadership to steer them away from this folly. Leaders of the community and local government officials should be playing this role though they don’t seem to be having any success. Buxton is a stronghold of the PNC/R. It, too, should be providing leadership. Buxtonians mustn’t only be mustered for the PNC/R’s street work, they must be led in the direction of responsible behaviour.
After last week’s monstrosities, one can almost begin to understand why the students behaved the way they did outside of Campbellvile Secondary. It is a sickness that has to be rooted out from all of our communities and the government, political parties, churches, schools, community groups, service organisations and the media all have parts to play.