RAYMOND Biles, president of the All-Island Taxi Association, said his organisation had to rearrange its operations based on "happenings" in downtown Kingston, yesterday.
Sections of King and Church streets, in the vicinity of the Supreme Court, were cordoned off from vehicular traffic as part of precautionary measures in relation to the Vybz Kartel murder trial. Vehicles were diverted to other sections of the capital city.
Kartel, whose given name is Adidja Palmer, was jointly charged for the murder of Clive 'Lizard' Williams of Waterford, St Catherine. Entertainer Shawn 'Shawn Storm' Campbell, Kahira Jones, Shane Williams, and André St John are also charged.
All, except for Shane Williams, were found guilty of the charge late yesterday evening.
"I have instructed operators to ask passengers who are seeking transport to and from sections of Kingston to do so at a location away from the police roadblocks," Biles told Auto.
The All-Island Taxi Association has over 2,000 members, most of whom operate in the Corporate Area.
Biles said his instruction is an attempt to protect both drivers and commuters in the downtown Kingston area.
"Members of public gathered at courthouse may get emotional and may behave rowdy. I wouldn't want any of my drivers getting caught in that," he said.
Merchants and business operators, who were given limited access to the area, said they experienced a reduction in customers.
Michael Ammar, proprietor of the King Street-based retail store Ammar's, said his business was affected by the blockade.
"I experienced minimal disruption to business," Ammar told Auto.
He, however, lauded the police for being "very receptive" to the community's call for not including South Parade in the cordoned area as this could have compounded the situation.
"This would have prevented deliveries from being made, and this is what happened when they did it three weeks ago. I'm happy they adjusted the block," he said.
King Street-based retail store Joseph's also had a dip in customer traffic.
"We are seeing a significant decline," said Nichola Johnson, accounts manager.
She surmised that customers were avoiding the area for safety reasons.
"It seems people are just playing it safe and staying away. Those who do come are just onlookers. Maybe people are staying far due to fear, as the police are out in their numbers," she told Auto.
The road closure was scheduled from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
A similar measure by law enforcement officers was implemented on February 19. The move drew the ire of transport operators, shoppers and business operators following the inconvenience and chaos caused by the road closures.
Despite the criticisms, the police high command issued another statement on Wednesday, which took effect yesterday.
-- Brian Bonitto and Kimmo Matthews