Residents of Beetham Gardens yesterday blocked both lanes of the Beetham Highway in a fiery protest which caused a massive gridlock for motorists leaving Port-of-Spain during the afternoon rush hour. The purpose and reasoning behind the protest remained unclear up to last night.
According to police reports, shortly after 5 pm, the residents began blocking several sections of the east and west-bound lanes of the Beetham Highway with rubble, tyres, pieces of wood and metal. Eyewitnesses told police the residents then set fire to the debris bringing vehicular traffic on both lanes to a halt.
Within minutes traffic backed up from Independence Square and Wrightson Road to the Barataria Flyover. Scores of drivers were forced to divert to the Priority Bus Route and Eastern Main Road to evade the gridlock. When a news team from the T&T Guardian visited the area where the protest originated, hostile residents refused to speak with the media.
Police arrived at the scene shortly after the fire began and by 6.15 pm the officers, along with firefighters, managed to put it out, move the debris and restore traffic on both lanes to normal. Heavily-armed police officers, led by Deputy Police Commissioner Mervyn Richardson, were seen patrolling the highway and the Beetham community while keeping a watchful eye on residents. The police eventually left.
However, the residents returned and blocked the highway with burning debris around 8 pm causing panic among drivers. Traffic also back up again for several miles. The police and fire officers again responded. Police said there were no reports of robberies from drivers who were stuck in the bumper-to- bumper traffic for more than two hours during the earlier incident.