San Fernando vendors protest High Street ban: ‘Mayor must go’

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

MY POINT IS: San Fernando Mayor Robert Parris makes a point during an interview after street vendors protested outside City Hall. – AYANNA KINSALE

Despite calls by vendors for him to step down, mayor of San Fernando Robert Parris insists vending on High Street is not an option.

He asserted that vending is illegal and he will abide by law and order in dealing with this contentious issue.

A handful of vendors, led by the president of their association, Cheryl Lawrence, armed themselves with placards and demonstrated on Tuesday morning outside City Hall, Harris Promenade, where Parris was in his office.

Chanting, “Parris must go” and “The mayor must go,” the vendors insisted the mayor must reconsider his decision and allow them to vend on High Street and not on Mucurapo Street.

Lawrence said while they have no qualms about an alternative site being developed for vending, Mucurapo Street is a haven for vagrants, drugs, prostitution, robbers and rats.

She said it is not a place shoppers venture, and even market vendors put goods on a trolley and go to High Street to sell because sales are slow there.

“Down there is not safe. It is dangerous. The area only have pipers and robbers who snatch your bag and escape through the cemetery.

“It is a vagrant domain. They sleep there, they urinate there. They defecate there.

“Nobody can’t do business down there. You put us down there are we are not sure to make a dollar. Most of the vendors are single females, and we may just have to stop selling if the mayor insist on putting us down there.”

She said about 78 vendors paid a fee of $500 for three months for permission to vend four days a week under former mayor Junia Regrello.

Both Lawrence and Shaun Grenville wanted that arrangement reintroduced.

“It is not right that a man could come just so and say no vending on High Street,” said Grenville, 39, who said he has been vending since he was ten.

“This is the only life I know.

“I have four children. I have to send them to school, to pay their van, buy food. Mucurapo Street is a dead zone.”

In an immediate response, Parris told the media a vending zone is being constructed on Mucurapo Street.

“We have a comprehensive plan for the redevelopment of Mucurapo Street. Rural Development would start a project in the next few weeks for the redevelopment of the Mucurapo Street Market.

“We are also paving Mucurapo Street. We have been meeting with various national security arms to deal with security issues at Mucurapo Street.”

Parris said this is all part of a comprehensive plan for the future of the city.

“Certainly, persons sitting down in a drain with an umbrella over their heads cannot be the standard of vending in San Fernando. We have to raise the bar to a higher standard. We cannot run a city and have a city in chaos.”

He said he had been speaking with the vendors from the time he was sworn into office last year, but on the basis of legal letters from government agencies complaining about the security problems caused by vendors blocking the main thoroughfare, he has to act in accordance with the law.