A police operation to clear the City streets of illegal vending and to remove displays from the sidewalks has left some traders crying foul and looking to the heavens for support.
Vendors operating in Swan Street and High Street were taken by surprise this afternoon when over a dozen police officers of various ranks appeared and demanded to see
their permits. Those who were unable produce up-to-date
documents were made to pack up and leave, while others quickly pulled out theirs from their pockets, bags, from underneath trays or wherever they hid them for safekeeping.
It was a particularly difficult afternoon for one young cassava vendor who left, then returned with a permit bearing a name which he claimed was his. However, the police rejected it because he was unable to provide his national identification card.
“How do I know this permit is yours? That could belong to anyone,” an officer informed the cassava vendor who operated from High Street.
While the uniformed officers patrolled the streets to ensure they remained clear, some storeowners complained that they were not allowed to display their clothing on mannequins that had the slightest contact with the sidewalks.
No tables placed in front stores showcasing merchandise were allowed if the owners did not have authorization to do so. The chairs, buckets and dishes also had to be taken inside.
The vendors said they believed the police operation was timed to coincide with the start of the Christmas shopping season.
Jack Farrell, owner of Jack’s Place located in Swan Street, said throughout the year he had displayed his goods outside to encourage people to enter his store.
“All year round this mannequin was outside here and it is not obstructing anybody. So
I don’t see why now the Government had to send out all these police to move the mannequin. How do they want these business people to pay taxes?” he asked.
Farrell argued that the Christmas season was the best time for stores in the City to make a profit, and contended that the economy could not generate growth if Government placed “blockages” in the way.
“I think that something got to be done. We business people were out here from since January, February and March, the hard times when we were not making any money. As soon as Christmas come the police out here harassing people and that ain’t right,” Farrell said.
Unreasonable, unjust, unfair and wickedness was Leroy Brathwaite’s reaction to being forced to remove his table of shoes from the sidewalk and back up a flight of stairs.
The owner of Upper Room accused the police of not allowing “small black business people” to establish themselves among the “hierarchies in Swan Street”.
“For the whole year we had our mannequins outside. This is Christmas time when it is most likely we are going to make some money. Then now, all of a sudden, I with a one-entrance store upstairs, ain’t got no show window to display nothing, I just bring two mannequins to display my things and look what going on here,” Brathwaite protested.
Brathwaite suggested that those in authority ought to go back to the drawing board, and use common sense and discretion in their decision-making in relation to the way they treat storeowners.
“We have too much of the wrong people in the right places in this country. We need to get the right people who understand small business. We got to find a way so we can make money. Nobody ain’t going in no store. I got to bring my things to display,” Brathwaite said.
One operator, who asked to be called Alicia, pleaded with the authorities to have mercy on storeowners, some of whom she said had been unable to afford rent for several months.
She said some storeowners made very little money last month and were forced to lay off workers.
“The NIS [National Insurance Scheme] want to know why we coming for green papers. They say why? I say we have to send home and cut down because right now . . . the stores are not making the funds that they used to before,” Alicia said.
“They say we got air conditioning inside the stores but I say the people prefer to shop outside on the streets. Barbados is the only country that don’t got people on the streets. Next year we going to be 50, but right now I feel like we moving backward,” she added in a reference to the country’s 50 anniversary of independence in 2016.
Police Public Relations Officer Acting Assistant Superintendent David Welch said the operation involved checking licences, making sure that sidewalks were clear and that storeowners did not display merchandise on the outside.