Left to Right: Kentish Bowens, Jamal PharRell and Kemuel Simmons
Front Page
June 10, 2022
Massy, Arnos Vale vendors counting their losses after stalls demolished

VENDORS, who once plied their trade in the Massy, Arnos Vale area are lamenting the loss of thousands of dollars in goods and other materials, after their stalls were demolished and goods seized in the early hours of Monday morning by the police.

SOME OF THE STALLS which were used by the vendors next to Massy Supermarket at Arnos Vale.

They are calling out for help and guidance from the relevant authorities on what the next steps should be, now that their main source of income has been destroyed.

This week’s operation by the police marks a culmination to action that began in July, 2020 when the Physical Planning and Development Board issued letters to the vendors, asking that they remove their structures or risk having them demolished.

Vendors had protested the action in 2020, saying they had nowhere to go, and some enlisted the help of lawyer and the New Democratic Party’s (NDP) candidate for West St George, Kay Bacchus-Baptiste who filed an appeal which was served on the Physical Planning Board.

No actions were taken against the vendors since then.

Vendor, Kentish Bowens recalled lying in bed on Monday when his girlfriend showed him a video of the police breaking down stalls at Arnos Vale.

“To be honest, me almost drop down because me coulda never believe that, because meanwhile the appeal was pending and we were waiting on answers…,” he said.

Bowens is originally from Fitz Hughes but was displaced by last year’s volcanic eruptions.

He has apparently been vending in the area for more than seven years and he estimates his losses including fruits, vegetables, tables and ice boxes to be in the region of $5000.

The vendor described the scenario as “very, very heartbreaking” because though they were served with a letter in 2020, he said they received no notice in this instance that their stalls would be destroyed.

“At least, if they been come and say something so at least we could’ve come and secure we stuff them, we coulda do that so that we can regroup…but nobody said anything,” Bowens lamented.

“I have three children going to Secondary School in Anguilla and I have to support them. I lost everything. Friday,we put out our money,we buy bottles and we buy all the provision and fruits and them thing there…what are we supposed to do now as young people, as family men who have bills to pay and children to support. What are we supposed to do, what is the next step?”

Bowens, who currently lives in Barrouallie, expressed that he did not want to go back to North Leeward, “because the only thing there to do is go ah bush, and me done come out ah that how much years and me na war go back there to plant no more weed”.

And he called on the government to provide the answers as to what the vendors’ next steps should be.

Another vendor, Kemuel Simmons is also questioning what his next steps should be.

Simmons said he has been doing business at the spot in Arnos Vale for the past decade and estimates his loss at $2450 which include fruits, vegetables and his structure.

The vendor said he arrived at the site around 5:00 a.m after hearing that their structures were being destroyed.

He said when he tried to retrieve his items, “the police come and tell me take me stinking mother this ya off the compound, off the people them compound”.

“I leave, go over by the school. See me with my phone in my hand. One of them want to come and take the phone. Another police tell him no, you can’t do the man that because the man na dey on the compound any more”.

Simmons said he asked again for an opportunity to save his items, but his request was met with more expletives from the police.

“…So me want to know what the next step?”

Jamal Pharrell, who has reportedly been vending in the area for the past six years said he was devastated when he heard the news.

“I never know they would’ve just come like that and break everything down. Dem never give we no warning at all. So when I come, I see everything on the ground, I never get to grip my piece of things because everything done gone in the transport, them done carry everything police station,” he said.

Pharrell placed the loss of his goods at over $300, in addition to other items including a table, plywood, and buckets.

The vendor also noted that his little stall helped him to support his child and questioned what would he do now that his only source of income has been destroyed.

“I want to know how I going get a little help because I’m a little youth and I don’t want to do badness. I don’t want to make trouble, I don’t want to sell drugs. I just want to make an honest dollar. I just want the whole nation to feel where I coming from…I’s a real positive youth man and I don’t want to make no trouble,” he said.

Prime minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves commented on the issue during his usual appearance on NBC Radio’s Face to Face programme on Wednesday morning, where he said Physical Planning authorities made the error of allowing the issue to go on for longer than it should have.

“They should’ve nipped it in its bud,” Gonsalves said, adding that the vendors created security and health problems in the area.

“Why does anybody think that in order to make a living, they have to go on property which doesn’t belong to them, harass people, some of them going to the supermarket or going about their business? Where the place is filthy? How could that continue?” the prime minister questioned.

He noted that some persons were selling from the back of their jeep on certain days, and others had fairly large vending enterprises in comparison to other vendors.

Gonsalves acknowledged that vending takes place in both developed and developing countries but he said it must be properly organised and should not stop “other important, legitimate business, and it can’t be a security problem, it can’t be a health hazard”.

He disclosed that he has spoken with deputy prime minister and minister of Transport and Works, Montgomery Daniel to do an assessment in order to provide the vendors who have been displaced with some support.

“It doesn’t look as if there is any one place nearby that we could accommodate the dozen or 15 of them, whatever the number, but to the best that we can accommodate, we will try,” Gonsalves said.

He, however, cautioned persons against vending on the green pasture on the northern end of the decommissioned E.T Joshua tarmac, which has been earmarked for the construction of the Acute Referral Hospital.

He made it clear that persons will not be allowed to stay there, adding the “people have to be reasonable. This is not just an individual thing of dog eat dog. It’s a whole country”.