Sun | Feb 5, 2023

Tense aftershocks ripple through Spanish Town a day after bloodshed

Published:Thursday | June 16, 2022 | 12:11 AMAsha Wilks/Gleaner Writer
Business operators and staff sitting outside a shop Wednesday while heavily armed police and military personnel maintained a strong presence in Spanish Town following ongoing gang conflicts which resulted in three persons being killed a day earlier.
Business operators and staff sitting outside a shop Wednesday while heavily armed police and military personnel maintained a strong presence in Spanish Town following ongoing gang conflicts which resulted in three persons being killed a day earlier.
Motorists round roadblocks in Spanish Town on Wednesday. Residents have mounted barricades to limit the threat of drive-by gun attacks.
Motorists round roadblocks in Spanish Town on Wednesday. Residents have mounted barricades to limit the threat of drive-by gun attacks.
A policeman conducts a search while a soldier keeps watch in Spanish Town on Wednesday.
A policeman conducts a search while a soldier keeps watch in Spanish Town on Wednesday.
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The tension was palpable in Spanish Town yesterday as residents, commuters, and business operators nervously faced the ripples of the aftershocks of a daring deadly daylight gang attack in the St Catherine capital a day earlier, which triggered pandemonium and upended what had seemingly been just a regular day.

The fright was still evident yesterday, and everyone kept their eyes pealed, scrutinising the smallest movements as the town remained on edge.

Many streets remained deserted early Wednesday morning as just a few locals risked venturing out, briskly making their way to work and school.

Despite turning out, some business owners did not unchain their shops, watching and waiting for a sign or some assurance that the environment was back to normal.

For some, however, normalcy never arrived.

“I ‘fraid. Me will go home,” one Chinese wholesaler near the market district, where three persons were killed on Tuesday told The Gleaner, said, unable to express much more because of language barriers.

Workers at the establishment said Tuesday’s incident was horrifying, recalling their frantic efforts to close the store’s shutters amid the deafening gunfire and as persons scampered for cover, many fleeing the street and spilling into the wholesale for shelter.

One market vendor who turned up yesterday to put out her produce admitted that if there were not enough persons from whom to solicit business, she was willing to pack up and return home.

After arranging his stall at 8:30 a.m., one fruit and vegetable vendor who hails from Clarendon said that sales were low amid the drastic decline in the customary morning crowd on the streets of the Old Capital.

Two pounds of cabbage was all he had sold in over half an hour.

“If me nuh sell nothing much, mi just pack up and gwan back home,” he said, adding that this would be “the best way” to go.

The local market was also desolate as few vendors bothered to turn up.

One vendor told The Gleaner that she had sustained cuts and scrapes after falling while attempting to flee to safety as gunshots rang out on Tuesday.

This, she said, was uncommon as gunmen would not target people within the market district.

Turn a blind eye

The reality, she continued, is that some residents have become immune to the violence in the town over time and have been forced to turn a blind eye for their own protection when they recognise suspects.

“It rough, y’know, but we just have to drink some water and easy. There is nothing we can do,” she added.

“The place tense,” one shop owner said. “Me just wish we could see the police more. With somewhere so hot, we need to see them.”

Heavily armed soldiers and police officers were observed patrolling areas such as Railway Lane, Job Lane, Cumberland Road, William and French streets, among other hotspots yesterday.

Despite their presence, homeowners along Chambers Lane, which runs parallel to Railway Lane – the scene of a quadruple murder in early June – remain terrified.

With the street barricaded, one resident argued that this was necessary to protect the most vulnerable, including children, the elderly, and women.

“We haffi try protect wiself. That’s why we block [the] road ... . We nah tek no check. Better we safe than no safe,” she said.

Children stay home

Some parents opted to have their children stay home from school for the day, preferring to wait to see if the violence had subsided and not endanger them. They children, they told The Gleaner, were also traumatised by the piercing sounds of gunfire and expressed fear in venturing out of their homes.

The mothers also indicated that they are anticipating further retaliation from warring factions and said they would prefer that teachers provide work online for their children so they are not disadvantaged by the necessary absence.

Amid the mayhem on Tuesday, a fire also broke out on the two-layered roofing of the St Catherine Parish Court’s administrative building on White Church Street.

Telka Holt, commercial services manager at the Rodney Memorial Building, told The Gleaner that although no paper files were damaged, some records and equipment sustained water damage from the efforts to extinguish the fire.

Nonetheless, Holt gave the assurance that this would not slow down operations.

“We can get back on our feet very fast. You know, we have some very good workers and the paperwork itself, we would have had copies of certain work in different [locations],” she said.

Holt said that employees had been advised to remain home yesterday if they felt going to work would risk their personal safety, noting that many staff members lived in nearby communities that are being directly affected by the upsurge in violence.

“It’s really, really heart-warming to see that they are out today,” she said of the 23 staffers who turned up.

asha.wilks@gleanerjm.com