Caught in a fiery roadblock yesterday, a motorist threatened to shoot protesters if they continued to burn tyres along Hermitage Road, one of several areas blocked in South Trinidad this week.
Although some parts of Hermitage Road were dilapidated, the area where the blockade was set up appeared to be in good condition. Heavily armed police stood watch as the motorist jumped out of a black panel van and accused the protesters of being irresponsible.
“If you want to burn tyre, go and burn it in your yard,” he shouted, holding a shovel in his hand.
One of the taxi drivers approached him saying: “We burning tyres all week.”
The police then cautioned both men and the motorist drove off, only to return after the van’s path was blocked by burning debris. He spun his van around and came back out shouting: “If I see all yuh here, I will *sic* shoot all yuh.”
However, the owner of the panel van, who contacted Guardian Media last night, distanced himself from the driver’s conduct, saying his company had nothing to do with what transpired.
No one was arrested during the protests. However, police officers assisted by firefighters had to shovel up the debris to clear the roads while the protesters looked on.
The protests started on Monday at Macaulay Road but then escalated to Hermitage and Cedar Hill.
Claxton Bay Taxi Drivers’ Association president Nizam Ali said they were fed up with the potholes. He said there was no co-ordination between WASA and the Ministry of Works.
“WASA dig up this road in three places and come back to dig again and again, leaving the road in this condition. The cement trucks also mashing up the road,” he shouted.
While parts of Hermitage Road were in good condition, there were other potholed areas where steel sheets were placed over gaping holes. In the upper regions, several homes were on the brink of collapse where the road had caved in.
Meanwhile, in Moruga, huge heaps of tyres were set on fire at Cachipe, La Lune and Gran Chemin.
Moruga/St Mary’s to Princes Town Taxi Drivers’ Association president Anthony Athanas said the roads are so bad that gas trucks and grocery vans cannot get into the area.
Messiah Baptiste called on Works Minister Rohan Sinanan to engage with residents.
“We want to have a stakeholder meeting here. You cannot stay in town and see what is happening in Moruga. We want Minister Rohan Sinanan to come here and sit with us and let us chart a way forward,” Baptiste said.
At Cachipe Village, electricity wires caught fire as the mound of tyres sent thick black smoke billowing upwards. Traffic backed up for miles. One woman was heard begging the protesters to let her pass before they set another heap of tyres ablaze.
Contacted for comment, Minister of Works Rohan Sinanan said 300 roads have been paved for this year. He said paving will continue based on the availability of funds. He also said some protests seem to be politically instigated.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Public Information Officer at the TTPS, Joanne Archie, said she could not say why the police did not arrest protesters or the villager who made the threats yesterday. A video was shared with Archie.
She said: “We recognise a person’s rights to protest. However, burning debris and blocking the roadway is unlawful.”
She added: “Once the police can identify the person or persons who are perpetrating these offences, they can be arrested and charged.”