Tuesday’s civil unrest across parts of Trinidad was organised and police at the National Command Centre were able to track —via real-time coverage—a core group of 50 people seen moving from location to location during the protests.
Police Commissioner Gary Griffith made this point yesterday in response to queries from the T&T Guardian on how police were able to ascertain that the protests had been organised. The rash of riots erupted after last weekend’s killing of Morvant residents Joel Jacob, Noel Diamond and Israel Clinton by police in Second Caledonia.
Protests broke out on Monday in Morvant, spread along the East-West corridor area—from Arima to Carenage and Las Cuevas—on Tuesday, with protestors burning tyres, blocking roads and shooting off guns, including at Government buildings, and continued yesterday with police taking more decisive action to prevent the escalation of the activity. Businesses in the affected areas, including Port-of-Spain, closed during the protests.
Yesterday, some workers living in South Trinidad who are based in Port-of-Spain operated from home. They were among numbers packing up the water taxis on Tuesday afternoon as they fled the capital to avoid being caught up in the protest action.
In Parliament yesterday, National Security Minister Stuart Young said he was informed by police that 72 people were being charged as a result of the protests. Charges being examined included breach of COVID-19 regulations, resisting arrest and malicious damage to property and obstruction.
Griffith, who maintained the protests were organised, pointed out yesterday that items used in the protests—placards, debris and tyres for instance—were all on hand readily available to protestors.
“That doesn’t happen in a spontaneous event. You don’t make up a number of placards on the spot,” Griffith said.
He said the fact that National Command Centre police saw a core group of people going from location to location, where protests occurred, was also confirmation of the activity’s organisation.
“It wasn’t random, they were moving purposefully from place to place,” he said.
Griffith also noted a ripple effect that occurred: soon after police got demonstrations in some areas under control, protests started up in other areas.
In Parliament yesterday, Young was asked by the United National Congress’ Roodal Moonilal if there had been any attempt at dialogue between police and the affected communities.
Young said mediators were on the ground from agencies including the police’s “Hearts and Minds” programme and discussions were taking place.
“And I’m certain MPs will be in the various communities at the appropriate time,” Young added.
On other Opposition queries, Young also said the recent killing of the three Morvant resident – which prompted the protests- is being investigated via two parallel probes: the independent Police Complaints Authority (PCA) and the police. He said the PCA’s director has confirmed work has started on the issue.
“And we look forward to the completion of the probe. I ask members of the public who have information on the incident to come forward to give it to them,” Young said.
Young said he assumed the probes will gather information on how many officers in the Morvant community were outfitted with body cameras. He said there are 180 body cameras distributed throughout the police service and more body-cams are being sought. It’s up to the Police Commissioner to procure more if required and Government will support this, Young added.