City clearing Water St of vendors
Stalls hauled away in court-ordered 6 pm curfew
By Nigel Williams
June 10, 2003
Confusion reigned on Water Street last night as the Mayor and City Council started enforcing the Court of Appeal order for street vendors to remove their stalls by 6 pm ending years of a free-for-all on a key Georgetown artery.
Despite notices being served on vendors one month ago most of them were still in place yesterday and as a result had to watch workers from the City Engineer’s Department dismantle their stalls. Some of them managed to secure their goods, but structures which they say cost thousands of dollars were knocked down by a small group of young men employed by the department.
Up to late last night, the remaining vendors were standing guard over their belongings.
While some of the shoddy looking stalls were being broken down angry vendors mostly women hurled remarks at ranks of the City Constabulary and accused the government of selling them out.
In the midst of the confusion a pickpocket was caught red-handed by a woman and the crowd turned its wrath on the man and administered several lashes.
President Bharrat Jagdeo had promised the vendors he would secure a plot of land on Water Street belonging to Toolsie Persaud Limited for the vendors but the matter is stuck in court over the government’s compulsory acquisition.
The M&CC has agreed to allow the vendors on Water Street to continue their business in the area, but at 6 pm each day they have to remove all of their stalls. Some of the vendors yesterday said it would be difficult for them to find places to store their goods in the night and even harder for them to be knocking down their stalls and rebuilding everyday.
At 6:30 pm, two pick-up trucks, one carrying City Constables and the other with members of the Guyana Police Force, along with a canter truck, departed City Hall decked out in full riot gear. Some of the officers wore helmets and were carrying shotguns.
Once the officers arrived there was a mad dash by vendors to secure their stalls and stocks. The constables descended first on vendors who sell in front of Stabroek Market and then moved up north, breaking down semi-permanent stalls and trays on their way. The workforce was very small and even if the Council was to continue throughout the night it would not be able to dismantle all of the structures.
The clearing of the street, according to the M&CC, would allow the council to manage its cleaning regime and remove the opportunity for criminal elements to use the structures to ambush citizens.
The M&CC said it would begin remedial drainage and road works in Water Street area.
Established businesses in the area have complained for years that the vendors have severely damaged their operations and some were even forced to close down.
Pamela Anderson, a mother of eight, said she lived on the West Bank of Demerara and it would be very difficult for her to carry home her collapsible stand everyday. She has been selling in front of Stabroek Market for the past five years and said the President had failed them, since he was responsible for their being on the street up to this day. Anderson, who wept while watching her stand being dismantled, said the council’s exercise was indicative of an administration that was not concerned about citizens’ well-being. She said along with others in the area she usually paid $1,000 per week to do business in front of the market, while those who have stalls in the market paid $1,500 per month. Stabroek News was told that the vendors in front of the market were not the ones who had challenged the council in court leading to the recent decision.
The City Engineer’s Department spared no stall and even though some vendors had already closed off their business, their stands which were left on the street were pitched into a waiting M&CC truck. While this was being done, the city constables and policemen prevented vendors from getting in the way of the workers. Further up Water Street, around Fogarty’s, a number of vendors had begun dismantling their stalls from as early as yesterday morning. However, because of the large amount of stocks they were still packing. Some of them reported that only 50 persons who normally sell in the vicinity of Universal Bookstore had carried the council to court and they felt those persons were the ones who should be disciplined. Mayor Hamilton Green had said that it was not a matter of justice, but one of fairness. The vendors are asking the government and the City Council to speed up the process of acquiring a more suitable spot for them to do their business. One man told this newspaper that while he was packing up his stocks a vase valued $9,000 was broken. He said that if he were to continue with the exercise every day he would lose more. Other vendors around Fogarty’s found time to laugh even while they were busy packing up their goods.
“Boy, what am I going to do I have to abide, me ain’t want dem to come hay and bruk up me things, so I am going to move”, one woman said.