You couldnt miss the news on Sunday. The local police force, having learned quickly from this government, have become masters of their own promotion.
So, many of us woke up Sunday, or returned from places of worship, or the market to hear that East Port of Spain was under lock down. After nearly a month of killings - much of it lost in the news coverage because we were so busy following Warner's by-election Campaign , oh, sorry, I mean Chaguanas West's - Trinidad and Tobago began to notice that east of George Street was heating up again: Duncan and Nelson were at war and you could bank on hearing about at least two murders a day coming from that area. The news media, getting their information from the police, never ventured beyond the formulaic description of "gang-related" killing. We didn't know what were the names of the gangs, or if the gangs were even from East Port of Spain...but you see, that doesn't matter. This is Trinidad, where the myth is that all criminals are black and all black people are criminals. So the details don't matter, just the big picture.
And it was the big picture the Police service was interested in on Sunday. Radio and Internet news headlines blared it out 90 Arrested in East Port of Spain Raid! Yuh see, they finally get their act together and doing something! Twelve arrested during the week and now, look, a whole 90 in one Sunday morning!
The 300 (officers) literally descended onto Nelson and Duncan, and according to residents, few saw a search warrant. They simply looked on while doors were kicked down, possessions were strewn about and their loveds ones were carted away. Many on just suspicion...no evidence. Which is why today, just two days after the raid, 59 of the 90 arrested are back out on the streets. And all 12 men held for the murders last week are back home as well.
These past 2 days have been like SoE 2011 deja vu for anyone who happens to be black, from an urban community, and possibly from a single parent home...worse yet if you have dread locks. It is the second time in two years we have had a spike in the murder toll lead to either a full fledged State of Emergency, or similar conditions. In 2011 for 3.5 months we were treated to nightly images of mostly young black men from urban and semi-urban communities being tossed into the back of police vehicles and carted off on suspicion of being criminals. Given the features and traits these folks had in common you got a good sound message of precisely what this Government and the wider society thinks is a criminal. You had the AG and Minister of National Security on television further endorsing the stereotypes too. And at the end of it all, 8000 victims of the SoE were released and sent back to their homes. No violent crime solved, no white collar crime solved. Big and small fish swimming normal normal.
This time around there was no official announcement of emergency conditions, no Kamla on tv nervously announcing from her kitchen that we under a limited state of nonsense, but the features were all there.
This weekend's raid followed several months of the Minister of Housing, Roodal Moonila,l constantly alluding to residents of national housing units as criminals...specifically national housing units in black urban areas. Again...stereotypes from a Government Minister. You'd swear the Equal Opportunities Commission sleeping.
Moonilal has claimed that as Minister of Housing, with oversight for the Home Development Corporation, he is a landlord to thugs and criminals...which is why he needs his luxury Range Rover tricked out like he is the Commissioner of Police.
Then this week he made the comment that he was cracking down on migrants from Port of Spain to Central and South Trinidad. Anyone reading that article would be forgiven for thinking there was zoning in Trinidad and Tobago and that people from Port of Spain aren't allowed to move and live in other areas. Moonilal should give up the Range Rover and get a cork hat, khaki suit and horse.....get his Boer act over and done with.
Aware that several arms of the state - Police and Govt - now looking patently bad, there are rumblings from the police that they may re-arrest some of the released persons. Almost as if Sunday was a dry-run and later this week will be the real deal. Let's hope they have evidence this time and not a "feeling".
The Prime Minister is returning to East Port of Spain on Wednesday. She may dissolve into tears again. Following her loss in popularity, coupled with this spike in crime, she must feel the need to do some serious PR and cajoling.
The irony is that every one is patently aware of why East Port of Spain is this way....a combination of neglect and total disrespect from regime after regime. But many of us don't care. Once the crime not affecting us, is ok.
But briefly pandering to and then largely ignoring these areas has become a game...and if you were keeping score this weekend you'd realise that everyone is tied at a big fat zero.....except the ones that were murdered.
Full Dotish Mode in Overdrive!