Re-Visiting Rage In Succotz
And so while Evan Cu is far from out of the woods, medically speaking….it seems that, for the time being at least, the public anger in Succotz village has subsided. That is because police showed the mob that Deputy Commissioner Segura was being charged just like anybody else.
But, even so, the angry mob was reluctant to give up the fight. Last night, due to time constraints, we gave you the broad sketches of the conflict – tonight, we put together the timeline in granular detail. Daniel Ortiz was on the frontline:
Daniel Ortiz Reporting
The protest was supposed to be a peaceful form of civil disobedience, and it started out that way.
The families friends and supporters all gathered on the junction of the Benque Road, and the Succotz Village entrance.
Minelli Chan- Cousin of Deceased
"The people of Succotz we are family here, we are vex, we want justice, we wan to lock Mr. Segura to give him charge. Not only manslaughter, not only that, we want all the charges because we was very drunk."
Soon, they started to block the road, throwing tires and tree limbs all across it from shoulder to shoulder. Then, the tires were set ablaze.
Traffic was blocked for about a mile on each side of the fiery roadblock.Commuters were forced to become onlookers, and some even had to skirt around the edge of the road, and board another bus.
Some of them were tourists who took advantage of the simmering social unrest as a photo opportunity.
3 hours or so into the illegal protest, law enforcement started to intervene. First it was all about compromise and tolerance, but by that time, emotions were already heightened.
"They might use force, are you guys prepared for that?"
"Yes, we're ready, we're prepared for that."
"Don't throw water because the people are getting upset and they have machetes. They want peace."
ACP Aaron Guzman - OC, Central Police Region
"Don't let that crowd come up."
"You see they are getting vex because they want to throw water and we are protesting with peace. If they throw water the people have machete, that's why we want peace."
ACP Aaron Guzman
"Ma'am listen to me, you see over there, they have a lot of people that are going to Melchor to buy, you have tourists vans that are coming."
"But you know a protest is like that."
ACP Aaron Guzman
"You notice what I'm doing, I'm moving the trucks because I don't want anybody to get hurt, so i'm leaving the fire to burn."
Law enforcement did leave the people to their own devices, and the fire engine didn't touch the bonfire raging on the road. The officers pulled out, and left the protesters to the senior officers.
The hope was that a smaller police presence would de-escalate what was starting to look like a confrontation
Some protesters started arming themselves with pint bottles, and rocks.
All the time, tires and debris were burning on the road. The ground commanders sympathized with them, however.
ASP Dinsdale Thompson OC, San Ignacio Police
"We find that coming out to support their loved ones, their family in relating to the death of their love one. However the present moment what we do have is them blocking the street, putting tires on fire and other trees as well on fire and it in hindering the free flow of traffic and that is what we are communicating along with the family to ask them, let the traffic continue to flow free. So that the matter in relation to Mr. Segura can also too be processed. While they do have authority, we do support them in their demonstration we do ask and we continue to negotiate along with the family members and others as well that the traffic continues to flow because we have other people that want to reach to Benque and from Benque to Belize City."
They did also confirm to the mob and to the media that Deputy Commissioner Segura was drunk when the accident happened.
ACP Aaron Guzman - OC, Central Police Region
"It is, I can say to you above the legal prescribed limit. What will happen now is Mr. Arzu has prepared those charges for the blood alcohol content.”
ASP Dinsdale Thompson OC
"The matter pertaining to Mr. Segura, the charges have already been typed out, ready to move on to the magistrate court and so that is what we've just told the family member, we've just told the mom. So now he will be taken to the San Ignacio Magistrate Court where he will be arranged for the charges that are at hand."
But this mob wasn't interested in lip service, they wanted proof that Segura would be treated like any other civilian in an accident. In fact, as far as they were concerned, he was already guilty of causing the death of one of their own.
Police therefore negotiated in vain with the Succotz residents for over 4 hours.
A steady supply of old tires were brought in. As soon as the fire started to die down, more tires were thrown on the pile.
They kept the fire going for hours, the black plumes of smoke, and intense heat, matched by the frustration of the mob.
The crowd lingered well into the morning, making sure that police didn’t get too close to their bonfire. Nothing less than visual confirmation of Segura in handcuffs would cause them to relent and re-open the road.
The ground commanders were hoping that if the Succotz villagers saw it in black and white that he had been criminally charged, they would be appeased.
So at around midday or so, Lead investigator Daniel Arzu approached the crowd with copies of the charges in hand.
Still, they weren’t so easily swayed by the black and white.
ASP Daniel Arzu – OC, Benque Viejo Police
"You need to tell the people that they need to cooperate with us. We are complying to the crowd, we are complying to their cry. For that reason, I as the lead investigator here, I am showing impartiality. I am doing my job to the best of my ability, I do not see anybody in this, but the wrong doing. So the situation here is I have prepared my charges, I have served Mr. Segura with 5 copies of traffic related offences ranging from manslaughter by negligence, causing death by careless conduct, negligent grievous harm, driving without due care and attention and driving with alcohol concentration. Now you all need to work with me because I need to have Mr. Segura arranged here this morning and we need to access the road so that we can reach to the court room. Thank You."
Resident of Succotz
"Can we see the papers?"
Daniel Arzu, OC Benque Police
"I have attached here; the charges are here and it is signed by a Justice of the Peace.”
By that time, all the good intentions of the peaceful protestors have taken a backseat to the mob-like mentality developing, fuelled to some extent by inebriation.
ASP Arzu’s plea had fallen on deaf ears, so police gave the protesters a half hour to 45 minutes more to cool down.
When the officers saw that the mob didn’t intend to open the road, they sent in the fire fighters to put out the blaze. The small crowd of young men got incensed by that, and soon after, rocks and pint bottles started flying at the police and fire fighters.
The officers retreated, but those young men kept on stoning at them to make a point, at the same time, tires came rolling down the hill, ready to be lit up once again. So, the mob had their blazing roadblock back up and in full flame.
Both sides had a strategy meeting, the police making preparations to breech and put down the riot, if it flared back up.
The civilians on the other side of the roadblock organised themselves.
Police gave them another hour or so, to cool tempers off, and with other civilians interceding to de-escalate the volatile situation.
During that time, police officers donned riot gear, preparing for any eventuality. But it wasn’t necessary because, tempers had subsided.
So, when the authorities moved in to put out the blaze and cleared the road, it happened without incident this time.
But, the statement was clearly sent: Succotz would not tolerate police protecting Deputy Compol Miguel Segura from criminal prosecution for that deadly accident he caused.
But public disorder carries a price…and just as arrests have followed public uprisings on other occasions, this time, Benque police say they are still considering what action they will take.