BUSINESS in sections of downtown Kingston was yesterday brought to halt for several hours as sidewalk vendors, angry at being removed from designated vending zones for the Christmas holidays, clashed with police in the streets of the bustling commercial district.
“The police dem wicked, dem don’t want us to sell wi goods; dem nah free up the road for we to operate,” said Sandra Gordon, a shoe vendor who sells on Orange Street.
Gordon joined scores of other vendors who expressed concern that the tough approach by authorities was making life harder for them at a time when sales were low.
“If a so the police dem a go operate we not going sell anything; dem fi free up the road,” said Ivan Whyte, another vendor who was seen along Beckford Street.
During the frenzy, other vendors accused the police of taking away their goods.
“Dem (the police) nah give wi no time to sell, dem just a run wi down an’ a tek weh we things dem,” cried Marcia Johnson, who said she had 10 children.
“I was on the sidewalk selling my goods and the police just come and take away more than $30,000 worth of goods from me,” said Johnson, who was trying to catch last-minute sales before Christmas.
Despite the vendors’ pleas, the police refused to relent.
“Go back on the sidewalk, lady, and come out of the road with your goods,” one policeman sternly told a vendor.
A few metres away, another policeman apprehended a man and warned him that he would be prosecuted if he failed to follow instructions.
Police were supported by Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC) Town Clerk Errol Greene, who warned that the authorities would not change their stance on where vendors were allowed to operate.
“It cannot be a case where anything goes. Law and order must be maintained!” said Greene.
He said he was peeved that after meetings between the KSAC and vendors to decide on designated vending areas some vendors continued to flout the law.
“The KSAC and the vendors met and a number of areas were designated. If the vendors are allowed to operate anywhere they feel it will pose a danger to customers; it is not safe,” said Greene.
Dunstan Whittingham, head of the Jamaica Vendors, Higglers and Market Association, who joined the vendors, said he was aware of the development.
“There was a mini stand-off between vendors and police. The vendors are upset and are raising concern how some of the police are operating,” said Whittingham, who agreed that some indisciplined vendors contributed to the problem.
“While it is true that some vendors have fallen out of line, the police do not have to operate in the manner in which they are operating,” Whittingham said, raising concerns that some vendors complained that police were confiscating goods and not returning all of the items.
In November this year, the KSAC, following meetings with vendors, announced that more areas in downtown Kingston would be designated as vending zones.
Some of them are:
• New Chapel Lane from Beckford Street to Spanish Town Road (ground provision);
• Pechon Street from Beckford Street to Spanish Town Road;
• West Street from West Queen Street to Heywood Street;
• Princess Street from West Queen Street to Heywood Street;
• Luke Lane from West Queen Street to Heywood Street;
• Matthews Lane from Beckford Street to Heywood Street (eastern sidewalks);
• Heywood Street from Pechon Street to Orange Street;
• Beckford Street from West Street to Darling Street.
— Additional reporting by Tameka Gordon