Police officers clear debris from off the Priority Bus Route near Beetham Gardens earlier today. PHOTO by CURTIS CHASE
UPDATE - Police giving safe passage out of Port of Spain
Joel Julien and Rickie Ramdass
A high police presence is being kept in and around Beetham Gardens
this afternoon as law enforcement officers give safe passage out of the city to commuters leaving work and headed east.
Many workers took to social media trying to find out if it was safe to use the Priority Bus Route and Beetham highway, which was the scene of violent clashes between police soldiers, and area residents Sunday night into today. Traffic is said to be moving, but there exists major gridlock on city streets. The Express was told that many taxi drivers chose not to enter the city to pick up passengers, leaving many stranded.
Earlier, police exchanged gunfire with people at Beetham Gardens as a protest sparked by the police killing of a resident on Sunday night, continued to rage.
Members of the media were caught up in the face-off, having to run to a safe area and take cover during the height of the instability.
Three National Security Ministry helicopters circled the housing development located east of Port of Spain, as police attempted push back residents and clear the debris from the east bound lane of the Beetham Highway and Priority Bus Route.
The protest appeared to have been quelled this morning with the intervention of Deputy Commissioner of Police Mervyn Richardson, but shortly after noon, there was an escalation, with police and soldiers using tear gas on residents and firing into the air at one point.
Express journalist Rickie Ramdass, was one of several media personnel caught in the gunfire.
He said "We were making our way through one of the alleys in the Beetham, when we heard rapid gunfire, and saw residents running in our direction. The police warned us not to go forward because they were in a battle with the residents. We took heed".
Ramdass said that police blocked the highway at several point and took up strategic positions before squad cars, aiming their guns into the Beetham Housing Development and firing.
Resident claimed that they never fired on police who were in full riot gear, and that law enforcement were taking a brutal approach against them because the area was considered a crime hot spot.
The sporadic protests throughout the day has caused traffic gridlock out of Port of Spain despite the efforts of police. Residents plan to continue the protest into the night.
BEETHAM residents had yesterday warned that this morning’s back-to-school rush hour traffic as the perfect time to stage fiery protests over the shooting death of a young man from the area at the hands of police officers.
The residents last night faced off against police over the shooting of Christopher Greaves, who they say was left to bleed to death while they looked on helplessly.
The residents staged fiery protests simultaneously on two of country’s major roadways last night to express their anger. That action led to traffic gridlock.
The situation all began with the shooting of 23-year-old Greaves around 6.30 p.m.
Greaves was a father of two from Fifth Street, Beetham Gardens who worked at National Fisheries, Sea Lots.
He was spending time with his baby son Isaac when he decided to go to the shop at the corner of Third Street, Beetham Gardens.
Greaves exited the shop with a soft drink. At the same time police officers were conducting a mobile patrol in the area.
Residents claim the officers opened fire on Greaves without reason. They showed bullet holes on the wall of the shop to bolster their point.
Greaves was hit and ran.
The officers followed him still shooting.
The residents showed the Express scattered bullet holes all along the street.
Greaves tried to run through an alley along Third Street but was eventually shot down by the officers. He lay there bleeding for at least 30 minutes, residents said.
“He was laying down there, bleeding, fighting for breath and the police keep pushing us back. We had a car ready to take him to the hospital but they kept pushing us back,” Greaves’s elder brother who requested anonymity said yesterday.
Eventually Greaves was dragged out of the alley and placed in the tray of a police van.
Reports said he died on the way to the Port of Spain General Hospital.
Residents showed their frustration over the situation by throwing debris and lighting it ablaze along Eastbound lanes of the Beetham Highway. They did the same thing along the Priority Bus Route also.
Police officers had to divert traffic, including maxi taxis exiting Port of Spain to the Eastern Main Road.
Residents said they will continue their protests.