Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago is anticipating more social unrest following the police shooting deaths of three men that demonstrators say were unarmed. Those deaths followed the killing of a policeman earlier in the day. Officials had initially feared the city spiraling out of control and believe the violence is caused by criminal agitators.
Early Saturday (June 27), police constable Allen Moseley was ambushed and killed in Morvant, a high crime area of Port-of-Spain, prompting a manhunt for the assailant, according to the Trinidad Guardian. Hours later, officers from the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service’s (TTPS) Guard and Emergency Branch, to which Moseley was assigned, entered the area searching for a suspect and three men, identified as Joel Jacob, Israel Clinton and Noel Diamond. All were killed when police opened fire.
The officers said that shots came toward them from a vehicle, but surveillance footage reportedly shows the men raising their arms to surrender, the Guardian said. Lawyers for the families of at least two of the slain men called them “summary executions” and demanded that the officers involved be suspended.
Although an investigation was started, tension began to grow by Monday (June 29) which resulted in demonstrators blocking main roads and marching through the streets chanting “don’t shoot!”
At least one protest turned violent as one social media video showed protesters firing weapons at police and police returning fire, according to news reports. Various demonstrations around the capital city have ensued for several days, with many comparing them to the protests in the United States following the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd.
National Security Minister Stuart Young is pleading for calm, issuing a warning that he believes the violence has been orchestrated by criminal elements.
“Money is being paid for people to go out and create disturbances. People are using the opportunity to shoot at our officers. There have been instances of sporadic shooting at our officers,” said Young. “I understand peaceful protests and people being emotionally upset about the incident Saturday. The protests that are not peaceful are being stirred by the criminal elements,and we are getting information that people are getting paid.”
Public outcry, however, is demanding that law enforcement deals directly with the police who shot the three men.“Evoking the spectre of unnamed plotters does nothing to absolve either the Government or the Police Service of their responsibility for responding to the communities’ cries. Whether or not there are forces orchestrating the protests is irrelevant,” reads an editorial composed by the editorial board of the Trinidad Daily Express newspaper. “The more important issue is the validity of the protests triggered by the police killing of Noel Diamond, Joel Jacobs and Israel Clinton of Morvant.”
The unrest could have been simmering over time and truly sparked by prior tensions between the community and the police. Killings by law enforcement have increased 86 percent over the past year, according to the Guardian.
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