KINGSTON –– Preparations for this week’s visit of United States’ President Barack Obama have triggered anger among street vendors in sections of the capital city as their stalls have been destroyed.
“We understand that they have to be fixing up areas where Obama will be travelling, but what they are doing to us is unfair,” said 67-year-old Claudette Reid, who sells crabs at National Heroes Circle.
“Is more than 40 years I have been selling right here so. Is through this selling I was able to send all of my children to school. Imagine, the Queen come here and them never remove we, the Prince also come and we were allowed to stay. So why now?” asked the distraught woman.
She was supported by several other angry vendors.
Obama, who is scheduled to arrive in the island tomorrow, is to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph in National Heroes Park on Thursday evening, his final assignment before departing for Panama to attend the Seventh Summit Of The Americas.
In Rae Town, vendors expressed anger at the demolition.
“Just a day ago [Sunday], we were contacted and told that we should remove the stalls until after the Obama visit,” said one vendor, who asked not to be named out of fear that she would be pressured for talking to the media.
Another vendor, Alice Waugh, told the Jamaica Observer: “We don’t know what to do; after so many years selling here all we got was a warning on Sunday that we must move or else. Just a day after the warning we come see we stalls flat.”
Over at the Harbour View Roundabout, one area which was once occupied by vendors was also empty.
“We were all told to pack up and go,” said one vendor who identified herself as Sandra.
The clean-up operation was questioned in light of the fact that American and Jamaican government officials have said Obama would be airlifted by helicopter from the Norman Manley International Airport to Up Park Camp from where he would travel by road to his hotel in New Kingston.
Yesterday, Town Clerk Robert Hill, when asked about the operations, said the Kingston and St Andrew corporation was not responsible for all the works now taking place in the Corporate Area.
“The KSAC has been carrying out operations to remove vendors from the streets for some time now; so this is nothing new,” said Hill.
“The KSAC is carrying out some of these operations, but we are not alone; there are other agencies also carrying out work to renovate the roadways and some sidewalks, so we cannot speak about all of the ongoing projects,” Hill said.