No to vigilantism …Gov’t condemns beating of city men at Canal Polder

from Left- Vernon Beckles and Dameion Gordon

Government on Tuesday evening condemned the beating of two men by residents of the West Bank community of Canal #1 Polder Sunday night and called for calm even as police have launched an investigation.

Vernon Beckles and Dameion Gordon both of Georgetown suffered severe head injuries, having been stoned with rocks and beaten with pieces of wood by residents. Police told the Guyana Chronicle that the duo has since given statements and investigations have proceeded into the vigilante actions of the residents.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Social Cohesion in a statement said it has taken note of the horrendous act of violence committed against Dameion Gordon and Vernon Beckles on Sunday, March 12, 2017 in Canal Number One on the West Bank of Demerara, as reported in the local media. “The Ministry takes note of the seriousness of those reports and urges that a thorough investigation be conducted into the incident. Additionally, the Ministry reiterates the position stated by President David Granger that while citizens have a right to protect themselves and property, this must take the form of Community Policing Groups. Vigilantism, especially when it results in the injury or death, will not be tolerated”. All citizens are called on to respect the rule of law.
Even as the Ministry awaits the report following the conclusion of police investigations, government said it is important that all Guyanese remain committed to co-existing in an environment of unity and peace as we strive to deepen social cohesion. “The Ministry of Social Cohesion calls for calm even as the Guyana Police Force investigates the circumstances surrounding the incident with a view to ensuring that justice is served,” the statement read.

In an interview with News Source, Gordon recalled that he and five other friends went into the community to inspect a venue for an upcoming event that a friend was hosting. Gordon noted that on their way to the venue they stopped at a shop to have a few drinks. “There were six of us, two Indian girls, myself and Vernon, and a dougla (mixed race) guy. We were all in the same car and we all came out at the shop,” Gordon told News Source.

According to Gordon shortly after entering the shop a group of men came up on them, accusing them of stealing two car mirrors. The man said that his friend and his wife, who live in the community told the men that they all had just arrived, but this did not prevent the men from attacking them. Gordon said he and Beckles were targeted by the group, who kicked them to the face and also hit them to the head with bottles and hurled racial slurs at them. The duo also jumped into a nearby trench to escape the assault of their attackers at which point rocks were thrown at them. Amidst the ordeal a Community Policing Group patrol arrived on the scene, but the residents continued to attack them. Gordon said the CPG ranks placed them in handcuffs, by which time a police patrol arrived on the scene. The duo was taken for medical treatment and then escorted back to the La Grange Police Station. They were released on station bail early Monday.

Vigilante justice has flared up here over the years and last year during one of those periods President David Granger had warned against the practice, saying that not only is it unacceptable, but can lead to serious problems in society. “We can’t tolerate that. We accept that citizens have a right to protect their properties and so on, but we expect people to be organised in Community Policing Groups. But we can’t tolerate vigilantism, especially when it results in the injury or death of anybody; it can get out of hand,” President Granger had told this newspaper back in August last year.

His comments had come against the backdrop of two cases of vigilantism in which residents of communities took matters into their own hands and severely thrashed suspects. In one case 37-year-old barber Roger Lovell, known for wearing a thick gold chain, attracted the wrong attention when two bandits on a motorcycle visited his North Ruimveldt home and attempted to rob him. One of the bandits reportedly acted as a lookout, while the other made his way into Lovell’s home and woke him up by beating him with a gun.

The startled barber was questioned about the specific gold chain, but as the beating continued at gunpoint, Lovell used his bed sheet to wrap the bandit’s arm and tug it towards a window. This caused both bandits to be caught by residents and beaten severely. Then police had said that 21-year-old Seon Clarke, aka Cash Money, a resident of Old Road, Land of Canaan, E.B.D., was killed in the Pearl Village, E.B.D. community when residents suspected him to be a bandit. Another friend of Clarke’s was severely injured after he also was beaten by the group of public-spirited citizens.