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Sep 6, 2017

Opposition protest becomes chaotic riot at Tower Hill

A protest proceeded as planned in Orange Walk today.  But what started as a peaceful march against the “hot bed of corruption’’ at the Ministry of Lands escalated into a violent riot at the Tower Hill Bridge.  We start our coverage of today’s events with the tear gassing of Belizeans, primarily from the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts, who came out in support of the P.U.P.’s Northern Caucus. As the protest concluded and throng of protestors headed impromptu to the entrance of the town to block the bridge, the police fired tear gas on them.  The P.U.P. leader, John Briceño and supporters, as well as the media, were caught in the mayhem. We warn viewers that some of the content contains graphic language. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The violent confrontation between the People’s United Party and elements of the Belize Police Department at the Orange Walk Toll Bridge around midday culminated a fiery protest organized by the northern caucus of that political organization.  Following a series of spirited presentations at theCentral Parkmoments earlier, a spur-of-the-moment decision was taken for supporters of the opposition to proceed to the crossing and block access from commuters traveling along that stretch of thePhillip Goldson Highway.

 

John Briceño, P.U.P. Leader

John Briceño

“This was spontaneous.  We did not have trucks out here waiting because if this would have been planned from before, we could have had trucks lined up here but we didn’t.  Just that at that moment, in the heat of the moment we said let’s go to the toll bridge and to block it for an hour or two.  We weren’t going to stay here all day, but just to make sure that they can understand.”

 

That impromptu call was quickly met by members of law enforcement.

 

Supt. David Chi, O.C., Orange Walk Police

“Please move them vehicles from off the road.  Ah noh wahn talk to unu all day you know.”

 

Protestor

“… this is the next logical step to saving our country.”

 

Supt. David Chi

“We noh gwein deh.”

 

Protestor

“You’re not going there but that’s where we are.”

 

Supt. David Chi

“We noh gwein deh.”

 

Protestor

“Unu arrest di man then, unu arrest di man.”

 

Supt. David Chi

“We won’t go there.”

 

Protestor

“We need to go there sir, we need to save our country.

 

Jose Abelardo Mai, Area Rep., OW South

“Sir, arrest me.”

 

That’s when Assistant Commissioner of Police Edward Broaster walks away from the gathering of stalwarts, presumably to summon the riot squad to that location.  A few minutes later, those officers, led by Inspector Aaron Gamboa, Officer Commanding the Special Patrol Unit, appeared on the scene.

 

{Confrontation between officers and protestors…]

 

ACP Broaster then instructs the officers to move a Toyota Hilux pickup which is the property of Orange Walk South Jose Abelardo Mai.

 

{Instructions from commander to officers on scene…}

 

And that’s when the Special Patrol Unit began to manhandle Briceño and utter chaos breaks out.

 

{Confrontation between P.U.P. supporters and officers at scene….}

 

John Briceño

“The police had their directives very loud and clear that they should come here and remove us at whatever cost.  As they came in, Broaster came like a thug after me, pushing me and pulling me and telling me that whatever force necessary that they are going to move us.  And the same thing they did to the Honorable Jose Abelardo Mai, and after a while when they started pushing us and we said okay, they let go tear gas.  I don’t want anyone to get hurt and we said okay, let us move.  We moved and when I was on my way, moving away from there then Love FM stopped me and said they wanted an interview.  I was giving an interview when the police came from behind me again and threw another canister of tear gas on top of all of us.”

 

During the mayhem on the bridge, we spoke with Jose Mai.

 

Jose Abelardo Mai

Jose Abelardo Mai

“We wanted to extend the message.  We want to intensify the message and I think we did just that.  It was just planned impromptu and the message was very clear though.  I think we are coming for Dean Barrow and we are coming for Belmopan.  This only the beginning.  You see how quickly people responded, in a matter of seconds, minutes people responded to a very impromptu announcement by the party leader.  This is only the beginning.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

 

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