Whenever the rage spills over none of us are safe. Repercussions from yesterday’s eruptions are still being felt all over T&T.
It is always there, simmering beneath the surface in a society perennially on edge, facing threats from out-of-control violent crime and economic uncertainty.
Yesterday that discontent erupted into flames and flying bullets, a cataclysmic outpouring of anger from marginalised communities.
Thick black smoke blanketed areas on the outskirts of the capital. Fiery barricades blocked highways and major roads into the city. This is an all too common occurrence now, usually triggered by a police-involved killing.
The latest eruptions were sparked by the deaths of Israel Clinton, Joel Jacob and Noel Diamond in Second Caledonia, Morvant, on Saturday. That fatal confrontation captured on a home security camera provoked the current chaos.
The protests started there and spilled unto the nearby Lady Young Road on Monday, then yesterday it spread to other nearby communities in what has become an all too familiar pattern. It spread as far as Corinth Village in San Fernando.
There were identical outbursts in mid-February 2018 in parts of east Port-of-Spain and Laventille over the police killing of a resident. Then, the rage died down after a day of turmoil.
This time, the protests resulted in the death of Ornella Greaves, 30, one of three people allegedly shot by police in Beetham Gardens, and showed no signs of abating.
National Security Minister Stuart Young and Police Commissioner Gary Griffith have promised full investigations. Commissioner Griffith blamed the upheavala a “well-orchestrated plot by certain gang leaders in the hope to get national support,” by causing “mayhem, fear, and destruction throughout the country.”
Beyond the trigger of deadly confrontations with the police, however, there are other elements to these uprisings that demand urgent attention.
Is T&T now reaping the bitter fruits of neglect and discrimination? It cannot be by accident that the very communities from which the riots are erupting are the very same crime hot spots from which warring gangs launch their battles.
There are some uneasy conversations still to be had about the decades of neglect and woeful under-development of Laventille, Morvant, Beetham Estate, Sea Lots and swathes of east Port-of-Spain. Criminal gangs have been able to sink their tentacles deep in these communities, drawing in disaffected young men and women.
Promises have been made but not kept. Chronic unemployment and underemployment have not been solved by URP and CEPEP, make-work programmes that promise much and deliver little.
The young and the angry made up the majority of the protesters. These members of marginalised communities can no longer be subdued with offers of occasional employment and promises of better days. They have been led down that road too often.
Criminals are exploiting the vulnerabilities’ and dysfunction that are chronic in these areas---opportunities for the lawless created from decades of deficient political representation.