Everybody run run run
Everybody scatter scatter
Some people lost some bread
Someone nearly die
Someone just die
Police dey come, army dey come
Several minutes later
All done cool down, brother
Police done go away
Army done disappear
Dem leave sorrow, tears and blood
Dem regular trademark
Sorrow Tears and Blood, Fela Anikulapo Kuti
Wednesday afternoon on Charlotte Street. I hear something that sounds like a gunshot and I try to convince myself that it isn’t.
No one else flinches on Charlotte Street. No one looks around. Everyone continues about their business – selling, buying, cussing, raving, tracking, playing music loud enough to make your insides vibrate.
So I convince myself that it isn’t a gunshot and continue about my business.
A few minutes later, I hear the news that there’s a crowd gathered around the corner and the police have just shot a man.
By the time I get to the scene of the crime, the shot man has been whisked away in a police van, but the people are still gathered around, the splashes of the man’s blood making three deep red stains in the concrete pavement, while the shell from the single bullet fired at the man lies in the drain.
People walk through the crowd, commuters and pedestrians walk through the man’s blood on the pavement hardly even noticing. The one uniformed officer on the scene does little to stop them from tampering with a crime scene. The bag of groceries the old man stole from the shop is also on the pavement, the straps of the black plastic bag flapping non-chalantly in the occasional afternoon breeze.
They coulda give him case. The women say. They didn’t have to shoot him. An old man. They keep repeating. He was an old man.
The crowd analyses why an old man would be stealing groceries. A bag of groceries. This is what poor people come to in this country.
The police too fat to run down suspects. How fast could an old man run anyway? Others say the man was already handcuffed when they shot him.
A man tries to make a joke about the man being shot in his backside. But for once, no one is in the mood for kicks. A woman issues a long watery steups in the direction of the joker and he immediately falls silent.
A young woman, looking the Babylon in his eye declares that she won’t go to the police for nothing.
If your man beating you, she says, they will tell you is not their business. I have to protect myself, but they quick to shoot an old man with a bag of groceries.
A youth man is shouting over all the other voices. He shouts about police brutality. About being effing fed up about this kind of treatment. About what would happen in this country if people were to turn against the police. The Babylon on the scene tries to quiet him down. He walks off trying to cool his head. He probably has firsthand experience of the consequences of his hot mouth and the police. But he continues. And his sentiments are echoed by an older woman. Too much police brutality on poor people. The people ask if the police are there to protect them or to kill them.
What we could do, what we could do? People ask me when I ask them what they’re going to do about what is going on. They know that it can’t continue like this.
The youth man points accusingly at the crowd. And allyuh want to vote for PNM? He is a rahtid. Like so many more. A woman takes offence. This have nothing to do with the PNM.
The youth man continues to shout. Is the PNM fault, oui.
The crowd grows. More police turn up. Half hour after the man was shot and a few people walked through the evidence they string up a caution tape. They tell the media people that we’re sensationalizing an incident that really wasn’t that important.
Meanwhile, uptown away from bullets, vagrants, heat, noise and streets sagging under the weight of poverty, Minister of National Security Martin Joseph admits that he underestimated the amount of work he had to do.
He, like the rest us, must be suffering from I never thought. I never thought Trinidad could get like this. And I never thought none of us would know what to do about it.