Thousands of Jamaicans rioted near Montego Bay`s airport Saturday, burning buses and blocking roads to protest the killings of two elderly men by police in an alleged shootout.
Police fired guns in the air and used tear gas to disperse the protesters, who numbered about 4,000, but the crowds regrouped, tossing bottles at officers and preventing them from clearing moving burned vehicles from the roadways.
No injuries or arrests were reported, but police continued firing warning shots after nightfall.
Flights were not affected and most resorts were far from where thousands of people massed to protest the shootings of taxi driver David Bacchas, 63, and newspaper vendor Cecil Brown, 66, on Saturday morning.
Protesters said police fatally shot two men in cold blood.
Police initially said the men fired on them and two weapons were recovered from the taxi, but later changed that account, saying the men were caught in the crossfire during a raid in the area.
Later, police said officers were carrying out raids in the community when they came across six men, at least one of whom was armed. The armed man tried to stop the taxi and a shootout ensued. The two men in the taxi were innocent victims and the two recovered weapons did not belong to them, police spokesman Ionie Ramsay-Nelson said.
“By all indications these were two decent, hardworking citizens,” Ramsay-Nelson said, adding that police were offering to assist with funeral arrangements.
Jamaica`s police force has been considering a stricter policy on the use of force to reduce the number of fatal shootings by its officers. Amnesty International said the Caribbean island nation has one of the of the world`s highest per capita rates of police killings, totaling 133 last year.
Protesters set a fire at the road leading to the nearby Sandals Montego Bay resort, preventing people from entering or leaving, independent RJR radio reported.
A senior manager, who refused to give his name or confirm the report, said all guests at the 244-room resort were safe and probably unaware of what was happening.
“(Soldiers) are right down the road so we`re probably the most secure hotel on the island right now,” he told The Associated Press.
While much of the island of 2.6 million is largely crime-free, gun violence is frequent in parts of Kingston, the capital. Last year, 1,045 murders were reported in Jamaica.
Source: Associated Press
Additionally Caribbean Weekly has learnt: There are reports that the disturbance blocked access to a local resort, Sandals Montego Bay. An official spokesperson said however that there were no disruptions at the 244-room complex and that parting guests had zero complications in getting to their flights out of Jamaica. Hotel operations “continue to function normally.”