An apparent pepper spray attack on Ninja Man, one of the island’s best known street people, is but a small example of the wilful assaults on the homeless, according to a leading advocate for homeless people.
“Ninja Man is not the only case. We have had clients . . . come in here who had their feet run over by a car and the person did not stop. We have had cases where some came in with their faces swollen after being beaten up, some have been complaining that persons are beating them up at nights, store owners are throwing water on them,” President of the Barbados Vagrants and Homeless Society Kemar Saffrey told Barbados TODAY after a video emerged of an attacker using mace on the Bridgetown vagrant, apparently on Tudor Street.
The video, which was recorded by a security camera and has since gone viral, shows a seemingly animated Ninja Man walking up to a young man and poking him on the chest, before the man sprayed him in the face.
Writhing in pain, the homeless man drops to his knees and washes his face with water from the road.
Saffrey said it was a vicious attack, and called on the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) to crack down on people who take advantage of the homeless.
“The Barbados Vagrants and Homeless Society are calling on the police and other officials to investigate this matter and that this person could be brought to justice for the act that they committed. The public also needs to know that they cannot just go up to a homeless person and abuse them because of the situation they are in. We need the law to step in place to defend these vulnerable persons of society when they are being abused,” he explained.
“The police can actually look at this video and see that it was an assault on a homeless person and investigate the matter. Why would someone want to willingly pepper spray another individual, moreso a homeless person, because of their situation and vulnerability and their retaliation, would be less? We don’t condone that sort of behaviour when someone would assault someone of the homeless society, especially when they . . . opt to do it for likes or video making and so on. We condemn that type of behaviour. We think it’s an act of assault and we think that the law should step in and this person should receive the full weight of the law.”
However, Public Relations Officer of the RBPF Roland Cobbler told Barbados TODAY lawmen could not charge a person unless a formal complaint was filed.
And while he did not specify whether or not police were looking into this particular case, Cobbler said any activity deemed to be criminal was investigated as long as lawmen became aware of the situation.
This hardly placated Saffrey, who said vagrants often refused to lodge complaints for fear of not being taken seriously.
“Most times the homeless don’t want to go to the police for the fear of being victimized or because of how they are looked at or are dressed . . . . Fortunately, this latest incident was caught on camera and had gone viral so the police should be able to bring the perpetrator to justice,” he said, while stressing the potential damage that pepper spray can cause.
“Most of us would know that pepper spray is something that would leave a devastating effect on an individual when it’s sprayed, especially when it’s in the face . . . . If the shoes were on the other feet, we know that they would have been dragging Ninja Man off to the Mental or prison,” he said.
Meanwhile, Cobbler reminded the public that “pepper spray is illegal [and] no member of the public should be in possession of it”.