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The name of the game is survival - Street vendors cry foul as they engage in cat-and-mouse chase with cops downtown

Published:Thursday | January 10, 2013 | 12:00 AM
A vendor who goes by the name 'Boxer' displays his goods on a section of the sidewalk along Beckford Street yesterday.
A vendor has his eyes fixed on the police as they approach.
Police confiscate a stool from a vendor on Beckford Street in downtown Kingston yesterday. - PHOTOS BY Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer
Vendors lay out goods along a section of the sidewalk on Beckford Street yesterday.

Arthur Hall, Senior News Editor

Sidewalk vendors in downtown Kingston are livid over the decision by the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC) to use the police to enforce the no-vending rules.

Yesterday, the vendors had harsh words for the KSAC even as they continued the usual cat-and-mouse game with the police.

"You have nothing to give we and you want to move we off the road which is how we earn a bread to send our children to school," declared one vendor on Beckford Street as he packed up his goods to run from an approaching team of police officers.

"Me willing to come off the sidewalk, but give me a job. Mayor, you want us off the road, then gi we jobs. Simple," declared the man who was on the move as the police closed in.

Anything left behind by the vendors, including board benches and buckets, was seized by the police.

Minutes later, the police drove away and just as quickly, the vendors were back trying to attract buyers.

With one eye looking for the police, the vendors continued their conversation with our news team as if no break had occurred.


"The one little market dem fix up (Redemption Arcade), you think that can accommodate the 5,000 of us who are selling on the streets? Before it fix, it used to accommodate 225 vendors, now it can accommodate only 150, so what the others must do?" asked a vendor who identified himself as 'Boxer'.

He was supported by a female colleague, who argued that during December they were allowed to sell on the sidewalk in an orderly manner and paid a fee to the KSAC for this privilege.

"You can organise a programme where you use the police to keep people organised on the sidewalk rather than using them to seize people goods. Just like how them use the police to run we down every day, them can use the police to organise the selling," argued the woman with passion.

"I am willing to come off the sidewalk, but them have to organise somewhere safe where the fee is affordable, but them don't have anywhere to put us and them want to stop wi from earning a bread," added the woman.

But this was rejected by commercial services manager at the KSAC, Gary Robotham, who told The Gleaner that there is sufficient space in downtown arcades and markets for the approximately 2,000 registered vendors.

"You should ask these people selling on the sidewalk if they have registered with the KSAC and have been unable to get a space in the markets and arcades," declared Robotham.

"If they were registered, then they could come to the KSAC and argue that there is a capacity problem and we would have to find a way to address that," added Robotham.


He said the KSAC is adamant that the city must be operated with order and there will be no attempt to prevent the police from enforcing the no-vending rules.

"We are willing to listen to the vendors, but the city must be operated for the interest of all the stakeholders, including the business operators, the shoppers, the police, the persons who deal with the garbage, and all others."

Robotham said the KSAC would be holding talks with the vendors with the first such meeting scheduled for this afternoon.

On Tuesday, deputy mayor of the KSAC, Andrew Swaby, announced that efforts to clamp down on illegal vending in the municipality would be intensified.

"We are using the first two weeks in January to sensitise representatives from the vendor and business communities (about our activities) which include cleaning of market areas, removing stalls from unauthorised areas being used for vending, and improving signage within the market district," said Swaby.

"The objective is to make it clear that we are determined to restore good order to the streets of Kingston.

"Public order needs to be restored to the heart of the city. In short, vending will not be allowed in non-vending areas," Swaby emphasised.