Machetes Wielded, Shots Fired
There are twenty-three more days to go before the general elections on November eleventh and emotions are reaching fever pitch among party supporters. On Sunday, in the village of Red Bank in the Stann Creek District, an ugly confrontation took place among supporters of both major political parties, the U.D.P. and the P.U.P. COVID protocols on the wearing of face masks and social distancing were abandoned and instead machetes were drawn and shots fired as the situation escalated when U.D.P. supporters in a motorcade rode through the village. The sequence of events was all captured on video and made its way on social media. Today, we spoke to area representative Rodwell Ferguson and standard bearer Ivan Williams on the perilous situation. Here is News Five’s Hipolito Novelo with a report.
Hipolito Novelo, Reporting
Machetes were drawn and shots fired after political supporters of both major parties clashed on Sunday in Red Bank Village, Stann Creek District. A motorcade with U.D.P. supporters was passing through the village and words were exchanged between supporters of the U.D.P. and P.U.P. And the shouting escalated when one of the U.D.P. flags was taken by a P.U.P. supporter.
From there a masked man wielding a machete appeared, threatening to use it. And from inside a red pickup, two armed men, one a police officer, emerge and two shots are fired.
The shouting continued and it got louder. Others armed themselves with sticks and rocks as the crowd began to swell. The required social distancing was clearly ignored and there were many persons without masks including the officers.
It was a scary situation fueled by alcohol and political tensions. Is this a preview of what we can expect to continue happen as November eleventh draws near?
Area representative for Stann Creek West Rodwell Ferguson and his challenger Ivan Williams of the U.D.P. are hoping that the tensions are quelled.
Ivan Williams, U.D.P. Standard Bearer, Stann Creek West
“It was not a motorcade that we were having it was just the campaign vehicles that were traveling together but we usually travel with the flag.”
Rodwell Ferguson, Area Rep., Stann Creek West
“Actually it was a motorcade. The things that you see in the video, I believe it is an illegal motorcade because they didn’t have any license. If you see the pictures, what do you call that? A motorcade? I call that a motorcade. So while they were passing a particular home some young men were on the veranda with some PUP shirts. I don’t know who aggravated the issue.”
“I look like that irritated some P.U.P.s who were also in the village campaigning and then we passed this particular house. Then a group of them gathered and started to follow our vehicle and then attack the last vehicle. It was more than a flag. They actually followed us and attacked us.”
“Apparently one of the young men took a flag off one of their vehicles. A lady came out of the vehicle and said, I want it back. And then they charged after the young men in their private property. The trouble ensured and apparently they got back the flag.”
“Well you know that our people are protective of me and the flag, the party’s flag. They are party people they a wanted to get back their flag and they were asking for their flag back. And then the family started the commotion with the machetes.”
Faber Describes Bedlam in Red Bank Village
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Party Leader Patrick Faber has since weighed in on the melee in Red Bank. According to Faber, U.D.P. Stann Creek West Standard Bearer Ivan Williams was making his rounds in the village, along with a few supporters, delivering pantry items when they encountered a group of P.U.P. campaigners in the village. According to Faber, when the situation escalated, a police officer who happened to be in the vicinity fired warning shots to quell the tension between the campaigners. Here’s how Faber described what was reported to him.
Patrick Faber, Party Leader, U.D.P.
“Ivan Williams is one of those candidates who decided that he would contributed some of his election funds to pantry distribution and as a I understand it, that was the business of those supporters of the party, workers of the party on that day in Red Bank. Eventually, another vehicle or two joined, according to what Ivan said, and they were attacked by the opposition who, I understand, were campaigning in the area as well. Our flags were ripped off the vehicle and some of his posters, we are told. And this is something that I’ve observed. I have seen several recounts of the story from various different social media sources and those that are biased clearly edited, cut and paste the videos according to what they wanted to portray and did not show. But from the fullness of the video that I saw, it was certainly that our people were first attacked when they tried to remove the flags and Ivan’s pictures off the vehicle which caused the confrontation to begin. Now I want to say for the record that we do not condone any of that practice that has happened there. In fact, let me also say that when it is we are out and about engaging in the campaign and our meeting on Saturday, of the National Party Council, when I gave my remarks I reiterated this. But I also warned and continue to warn our supporters and campaigners, members engaging in the campaign on behalf of the U.D.P. to make sure that they are practicing social distancing and the mask wearing. Now from my understanding, some of that may not have been adhered to in Red Bank on Saturday. I am not going to say that something happened that did not happen there and so if that was the case then we take responsibility for that, we use it as a learning lesson. From what I’ve gathered it was a police officer that fired the two warning shots who was, according to what was told to me, in the area and observed what was going on when it was that our supporters tried to regain the flag that was so aggressively ripped off the vehicles, the pictures and so on and then they ran into the yard, of course our supporters trying to ensure that the flag was not destroyed. I understand that they were trying to burn the flag or do something to the flag and the police officers saw that there was some machete play looking to happen, they started to brandish machetes and so he fired two warning shots.”
Commissioner Williams Comments on Red Bank Spat
Commissioner of Police Chester Williams was asked about the incident in Red Bank Village and he says that when he saw the video, he immediately gave the directive to arrest persons who appear in the video committing a violation. Commissioner Williams confirmed that shots were fired by a police officer who was in the area when the altercation began.
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police
“I looked at the video over and over to see what may have caused it and I could nt see anything but the thing is that they ought to have just continued along their route and go about their business. Why stop in an area where you know is going to be hostile. We have to be careful as to the things that we do. When I saw it I immediately contacted the Officer in Charge of Independence Mister Zuniga and directed that all those persons who are visible in the video committing a breach of the law whether it is the quarantine regulations or the fire arms act or the summery jurisdiction offences act that they must be brought into custody and they must be arrested and charge. We have to send a message, loud and clear. In deed yes there was an off duty officer there and I have spoken Mister Zuniga in respect to that and he is saying that the off duty officer was not in the motorcade but rather he was behind when he saw what took place and he acted. Well I want to be convince of that because from my observation even when the motorcade took off the vehicle in which the off duty police man was in went behind the motorcade so I have tasked Mister Zuniga to appointed an independent investigators to investigate the matter so that we can get to the bottom of what exactly transpired out there.
“That officer was not wearing a mask.”
“Yes, he was not wearing a mask.”
“Sir there is an allegation that the shots fired was from his weapon”
“He is saying yes. He is not disputing that he fired shots and we have to at the end of the day be reasonable because when prior to the shots being fired we saw machetes being wielded. He is saying that it was because of the machetes being wielded that he had to fire shots to disrupts what was about to happen. So we have to be fair and look at what actually transpired objectively. What would have happened maybe had he not done so maybe we would have been dealing with some fatalities. So we have to be fair where that is concerned. I saw the police man and a special constable is one who had a long arm, I believe and the police man had a short arm. One is a special constable. One is police.”
“Which one of them fired the long arm?”
“Well I guess we saw who had the long arm. It was the special constable who had the long arm.”
“Did this motorcade have a permit to conduct this activity?”
“They don’t necessarily need a permit to have done so but again like I am saying I would wish the political parties respect the authorities and do what is required and expected of them as leader to ensure whatever they do, do not contribute to the increase of cases in our country.”