Defying a police order, some petty traders in the commercial district of Red Light in Paynesville yesterday vandalized vehicles and damaged whatever was in their path.
The traders’ rage grew out of a police order issued on Wednesday requiring them to vacate the road and move back to the sidewalk to sell their wares because they were obstructing the free movement of traffic.
By the time the melee ended, over L$100, 000 worth of goods had reportedly been damaged or stolen by suspected criminals as police swung into action to maintain law and order.
During the skirmishes, angry petty traders threw missiles of deadly-looking objects at the police to prevent them from taking their goods or making arrests.
Several of the traders expressed disappointment at the timing of the police raid of the area to prevent them from selling on the streets. They therefore called on the government to find them a suitable market site.
On behalf of the petty traders, the president, Emmanuel F. Matthews, told the Daily Observer that they are appealing to the government to intervene by relocating the market from Red Light.
“We take responsibility for the lawlessness committed,” he said, “but called on government to provide an ideal market ground where the poor people will be able to find their daily means without encountering the police.”
“Police should stop treating us as enemies of the State. Violations are not like treason, felonies or whatever heinous crime one may think about. We are unarmed, but the police usually use unnecessary force on our people to implement an order,” he argued.
A brief meeting was meanwhile called by the National Petty Traders’ Union leadership to find the way forward.
At the meeting, the traders unanimously resolved among themselves to work with authorities of the Paynesville City Corporation (PCC) to clean up the market place. They called on the PCC to designate sites where the trash should be dumped.
Mohammed G. Jaliebah, chairman of the Youth Wing of the Union, said the leadership will set up a taskforce to coordinate the cleanup campaign beginning today, Friday.
Police officers who were on site to restore law and order refused to speak to the press, but one senior officer, on condition of anonymity, told reporters that their role is to restore sanity to the area.
“We will arrest all those connected to the violent activities today and later send them to court to account for their lawless acts,” the officer stated.