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Sep 6, 2018

State of Emergency Affects the Elderly and the Innocent

The magnitude of the sweeping measures imposed under the state of public emergency in two zones of the city, is already causing disquiet in the affected neighbourhoods.   In less than forty-eight hours since the Statutory Instrument was signed, declaring George Street and the Mayflower area as emergency zones, police have descended on dozens of persons.  In the dead of the night, the elderly, men, women and children are not spared as police carry out operations. It is the answer to hold down crime in the next thirty days. News Five’s Isani Cayetano has the following report from the Mayflower area.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

In the aftermath of a predawn sweep effected in two Belize City neighborhoods on Wednesday morning, residents are enraged that elements within the Belize Police Department would descend on their homes without knocking or asking.  In actual fact, those unnamed officers stand accused of breaking and entering into a number of houses on Mayflower and Banak streets, including one property where two elderly women reside.


Voice of: Mayflower Street Resident

“I was sleeping.  I heard a big bang. I got up and I looked through my bedroom window [and] by the time I could look through the window the cops were already up on the veranda, bust the padlock off my gate, bust my screen door to my veranda open and two gun eena my face.”


To make matters worse, the operation was carried out by members of law enforcement who concealed their identities by wearing balaclavas.  In this household, one of the occupants is an eighty-five-year-old woman with a hearing disability.  She was fast asleep when a masked officer breached her bedroom door.


Voice of: Mayflower Street Resident

“I di stagga di fall down di try get out fu open di door, by the time I come een ya dehn done deh eenside ah my hall, bust my next door and dehn ask who eena di room weh lock.  Ah tell dem my auntie, she’s eighty-five, ih deaf.  Ih cyant hear and I have to wait until eight o’clock in the morning when she gets up and open her door.  “Well if unu noh open it, I wahn stamp it open.”  And dehn stomp open di door, mi auntie traumatized, ih frighten, ih get up.  Wahn know who dat, who dat, weh happen, you know.  And I think ih totally wrong.”


A few nights ago, a similar incident had taken place on Banak Street where cops stormed a residence and rounded up several persons.  Among them was Angel Garcia, a young man with no criminal record.  He says that he had not too long arrived from work and was seated in the living room when the officers descended in one fell swoop.  He is covered in a bed sheet after being viciously beaten and hauled off to the Raccoon Street Police Station on Sunday night.


Angel Garcia

Angel Garcia, Banak Street Resident

“Sunday night dehn come and when dehn come, dehn just bum rush eena my house ya, stomp open my door, bruk up my door dehn and when dehn come, dehn come and dehn meet me right ya so di sihdown with my family, my lady and my pickney and thing.  I di play wahn lee game, I just cohn home from work because we mi di finish up Ebenezer School, yoh know.  I just cohn from work, not even mi bathe, “Oh, everybody put up unu hand.”  By the time we put up wih hand, “unu let’s go.”  Dehn staat to dreg we up, so I tell the man please, at least mek ah get wahn shirt because da station unu di ker we noh.  When di man ker me out deh, unu put up unu hand gainst di wall.  When we put up fi we hand gainst di wall, by di time I look so, I sih like dehn whap my lee bra-lee check.  Next thing I know, dehn just staat to whap up me.”


Garcia alleges that he was struck in the back of the head with the butt of an officer’s service weapon.  On the second blow, he says that he was knocked unconscious.


Angel Garcia

“I ask di man, “weh unu di deal wid me like this fa?  Unu come and unu meet me eena my house, yoh know, I noh di do nothing.  Unu cohn meet me eena my house with my family.”  The next thing I know, dehn just staat to whap up me all eena my back, backa a my leg.  Then the next thing I know, I di turn so to one ah di officer dehn, I just gaan blank out.  Up to now, I still noh know, I still noh remember exactly if da gun butt ih gun butt me eena my head or ih whap me eena my head, but I know one ah dehn gun butt me from back on.”


From a broader perspective, the oppressive approach employed appears to be indiscriminate in its application, particularly since the police department has working knowledge of who the gang members are that it should be targeting.


Voice of: Mayflower Street Resident

“I live here by myself, just me and my aunt weh eighty-five-years-old.  Nobody, not even my grandkids dehn live wid me, nobody.  I have my granddaughter, my grandson dehn, but nobody live round me.  Dehn come, dehn visit and dehn go.  Five daughters.  Mi grandson only twelve-years-old, ih di go da school.  She ten.  I noh have nobody round me, so I noh sih why dehn do that.  Dehn know di gang bangers, dehn know who di harbor dehn, dehn know di encourage dehn so dehn shouldn’t ah mi do weh dehn do to me.”


It’s a sentiment that is echoed by Acting Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, perhaps in a more figurative manner, but he is being taken at his word.


Chester Williams

Chester Williams, Acting Commissioner of Police

“The ordinary, law abiding citizens in these areas can be assured that whatever rights they have enjoyed yesterday that today, they can continue to enjoy those rights.  We know who our players are and those are the persons we are going after.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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