Bedlam was the order of the day on Monday, with residents of Beetham Gardens in Trinidad exchanging gunfire with police after they shot and killed a local man, 23-year-old Christopher Greaves, on Sunday.
The gun battle caused the police to declare the area “a virtual war zone”.
After the killing of Greaves on Sunday evening, residents threw debris and started fires in the path of motorists on that section of the Beetham Highway. This caused traffic to be diverted on to the Eastern Main Road by the police on Sunday.
As a result of the killing of Greaves, a father of two, residents on Monday kept their promise to continue protesting. They said it will not end until the officers responsible for his death are arrested and prosecuted.
Moday’s protest, which continued with the blockage of the east-bound lane of the Beetham Highway and the Priority Bus Route (PBR) with debris, hindering the flow of traffic, soon escalated.
Police used tear gas canisters in an attempt to disperse the crowd, as residents faced off with officers.
But this was not the height of the instability in the area. Around 1 pm, after a brief calm, following the intervention of Deputy Police Commissioner Mervyn Richardson, members of the media were forced to take cover as the sound of rapid gunfire was heard at different locations throughout the East Port of Spain community.
While making their way through an alley, reporters heard the first volley of shots, followed by the sight of residents scampering for safety.
Police said they were shot at and then opted to returned fire. The residents, however, claimed otherwise saying the police were taking a heavy-handed approach in attempting to bring the protest action to an end, by shooting at unarmed members of the public.
Up to Monday night, there were no reports of anyone being injured or arrested during the protests.
As the shootout continued, three national security helicopters hovered above, as the officers occasionally blocked off the highway, taking up strategic positions on top of their vehicles and aiming in the direction of the sound of the gunfire.
A motorist, whose path was temporarily blocked along the highway, was visibly shaken and in tears as shots were exchanged.
Media workers were warned.
“Do not go in there. You can go in, you know, but it is at your own risk because those people are firing at the police. It is not safe,” Richardson, told reporters.
The shootout soon spread and officers were dressed in full riot gear, keeping the protesters at bay.
Reporters were shown several bullet casings by residents, which appeared to be the ones used in high-powered assault rifles. They said the shells came from the guns belonging to the officers.
One man claimed the officers who killed Greaves were contracted to do so by a well-known gang leader in John John, Port of Spain.
Up to late Monday evening, officers said there was a high police presence in the area, as they anticipated further clashes later that night.
Officers said their presence was to also maintain the free flow of traffic in order to ensure the safety of motorists and the travelling public.
Despite the free flow of traffic, many commuters nevertheless remained stranded in the capital city on Monday evening, due to the large number of taxi drivers who were not willing to enter Port of Spain due to the protest action, said some commuters.
Greaves was shot and killed on Sunday evening after police said he was seen in the area with a nine millimetre handgun in his possession.
The residents, on the other hand, said this was not true. They maintained Greaves was not armed, stating he had never been in trouble with the law. They said he had gone to a shop in the area to purchase a soft drink when he was chased and killed by the officers.
Residents said they will be continuing their protest for the remainder of this week and beyond.