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Mayor of Kingston, Senator Desmond McKenzie, assured angry downtown Kingston street vendors on Friday (October 15) that new facilities are being created by the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC) to accommodate their removal from the streets by the police.
Mayor McKenzie gave the assurance during a meeting with a large group of vendors, representing thousands of downtown Kingston street vendors a day after the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) started removing them from the streets.
He said the Coronation, Redemption Ground, Queens and ‘Fish’ Market would be refurbished to produce additional space to accommodate them.
The first phase of the multi-million dollar Coronation Market Redevelopment Project, which is being financed by communications firm, Digicel, is expected to be completed by October 23 and handed over to the KSAC, providing an additional 400 market spaces for registered vendors, he disclosed.
The Mayor said that new stalls are being constructed at the Coronation Market, as well as newly renovated bathrooms, restaurants and an Internet Cafe. However, he explained that the refurbishing was not triggered by the police action on Thursday, but was part of a phased programme of redevelopment of the downtown market area which has been proceeding for sometime.
He implored the vendors who were operating illegally to get registered immediately, as space would only be provided for licensed vendors in the refurbished areas.”We are not catering for illegal vendors; we are looking at persons who are registered vendors. The spaces that are going to be created will be there for legal vendors, they will get first preference,” he warned. He also cautioned those who were vending in prohibited sections of downtown Kingston, including King’s Street and in front of the Kingston Parish Church, to follow the police’s instructions and relocate to designated areas, 14 of which have been created outside the markets.
“The operations of the security forces yesterday is something that, as a Council, we cannot ignore the importance of. People should respect the laws that govern the areas that we say you are not supposed to vend,” Senator McKenzie said.
He said that, while he was concerned about the fact that there was no dialogue between the KSAC and the vendors leading up to Thursday’s operation, and will seek a meeting with the Commissioner of Police to discuss the matter, he could not oppose the police’s attempt to bring law and order to the streets of downtown Kingston.
“I cannot go against the wishes of the police force, I cannot go against the dictates of the police, as they relate to maintaining law and order in downtown Kingston, but I don’t want us to go back to where we are coming from,” the Mayor argued.
“The police are saying that the roads need to be accessible to them in order for them to effectively carry out their police work, and we are in agreement with that aspect of their concerns,” he added.
However, he cautioned against unnecessary force, arguing that the destruction of people’s goods was something the Council would not support.
President of the Jamaica Vendors’, Higglers’ and Market Association, Dunstan Whittingham, an President of the United Vendors Association, Brenda Christie, both endorsed the Mayor’s comments, and pledged their associations’ support for efforts to regularize vending in the area.
Mr. Whittingham said that Thursday’s confrontation with the police was not planned, as the association intended to have a peaceful demonstration to highlight the vendors’ concerns, which got out hand because of the approach of the police.
“We are not afraid to stand up for our rights, but we have to do so in an orderly fashion,” he told the meeting. He said that those who lost merchandise as a result of the police operation should lodge a complaint with the Association.