National Security Minister Stuart Young has claimed that some people were paid to participate in yesterday’s violent protest action over police brutality in and around Port-of-Spain.
Speaking at a news conference at the ministry’s office at Abercromby Street in Port-of-Spain, hours after the unrest commenced, Young claimed that he had received reports of persons being recruited by “criminal elements” to perform orchestrated acts including blocking roads and clashing with police officers.
“I understand peaceful protest and people being emotionally upset about the incident that took place on Saturday but it has become very obvious, very quickly, that many of these incidents that are not peaceful are being stirred by the criminal elements in our society,” Young said.
Young did not reveal who were the “criminal elements” being investigated by law enforcement officers were but said: “Criminal elements are not always who we call gang members.”
During the press conference, Young noted that the protests were sparked by a police-involved shooting in Morvant on Saturday, in which Joel Jacob, Noel Diamond, and Israel Clinton were killed.
While Young admitted that he too had viewed CCTV footage of the incident, he called on citizens to wait on the results of investigations being conducted the T&T Police Service (TTPS) and the Police Complaints Authority (PCA).
“At the end of the day that is what us law-abiding citizens want. It is not for us to play judge or jury or for us to decide who was right or who was wrong in these situations,” Young said.
Questioned whether the protests in bordering communities in east Port-of-Spain controlled by members of the country’s rival gangs may be an indication that they had temporarily put their differences aside in an apparent show of solidarity, Young said yes.
Young confirmed reports that a third-floor window at the Ministry of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs building at Richmond Street had been hit with a projectile.
Young stated that he was not too concerned by the incident as over the past few years there had been several isolated cases of persons firing long-range shots at tall buildings in Port-of-Spain including the Ministry of Education building at St Vincent Street.
“They (such incidents) are not that infrequent with the indiscriminate shooting. I always say when persons shoot up in the air, the bullet has to come down. There is no cause for concern at this stage,” Young said.
However, he noted that he was disturbed by reports that some police officers were fired upon while responding to incidents in east Port-of-Spain, yesterday morning. He claimed that no police officers had been seriously injured, at the time of the press conference.
Young also sought to assure citizens that the TTPS and the Defence Force had been deployed to strategic locations in and around the city to keep the peace and to ensure that roads are not blocked when commuters are returning home, yesterday evening.
“I am asking persons to be careful, be vigilant, and do not take unnecessary risks. This is being dealt with. There is absolutely no need for panic,” Young said.