Community protests Ezekiel’s killing: Gun violence ‘psychotic,’ ‘sickening’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

STOP KILLING CHILDREN: Children hold their placards during a protest at Mapp Trace, Laventille Road, East Dry River where Ezekiel Paria, 12, was shot and killed last Thursday. – AYANNA KINSALE

CALLING gang warfare and gun violence “sickening” and “psychotic,” Laventille residents protested the recent killing of 12-year-old Ezekiel Paria and called on gang members to end the bloodshed.

Paria, a standard five student at Eastern Boys’ Government Primary School, was struck by a stray bullet along Laventille Road, East Dry River, last Thursday.

Gunmen ambushed a passing vehicle while Paria stood along the street. He was on his way home.

His aunt, who asked not to be named, told Newsday that Paria was humble and his killing “mash (her) up.

“That’s a child!” she said as she held her head.

She said she often told him not to venture out the road because “the place wild.

“People evil! Nah, boy!”

Several schoolchildren, including some of Paria’s classmates, were part of the protest. Paria’s mother Melissa Huggins was also there.

His aunt said when she saw the children there, she broke down again.

“It’s every day I (have been) crying. It’s only today I (start to) hold up but that mash me up instantly. No lie.”

She said those involved in gang wars and gun violence are “sickening.”

Another resident Steve Andrews said people who are murdering others “have no regard for the children.

“The children today is the future, and it appears to me like we, as villagers and citizens in the country, ain’t realising.

“The gravity of destruction we doing…”

He said people are killing future prime ministers, engineers, doctors, lawyers and pilots. Paria wanted to become a pilot when he grew up.

“It’s a very, very mad and psychotic thing. Like we country gone mad!”

Nedra McClean explained that the children had masks on their faces to help conceal their identities because “we don’t know who’s next.

“They are scared. They are traumatised.

“They came out here this afternoon to stand firm and to let you all know how they feel about the loss of their friend, their classmate Ezekiel…a bright child, kind, respectable, disciplined…

“I speaking to you all and my stomach is not mine.”

Another concerned resident who wanted to only be identified as Kingsley sought to make it clear the group was not there to “pick sides” in any gang warfare.

“We out here to send a message that six and seven (gangs) not working for us…I want to tell the both sides it is time to stop it.”

He said communities are losing children, fathers and mothers.

“We are in pain. We are bawling.”

He said too many people have to take alternative routes to get to work because of gang warfare, and some are even stranded at night because taxis do not venture there after a certain hour.

“It’s time for we to unite again. It’s we hurting, it’s our community hurting. People are afraid to come into our community because of we. There’s nobody to blame.”

He urged all the community to join them in protest because “enough is enough.

“Our children growing up and hearing gunshots. Our children growing up and seeing guns, not books.

“This is pain (and) I ain’t afraid to go on media and say we have to stop this.”

Two suspects have since been held in connection to the killing and investigations are ongoing.