ROSEAU, Dominica, Wednesday February 8, 2017 – Scenes of shattered store windows, scattered rocks and piles of debris in Dominica’s capital, Roseau, this morning were grim reminders of a night of violent protests.
Trouble had erupted hours after a public meeting and protest organized by the island’s opposition parties, at which demonstrators demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit.
According to reports, lingering protesters confronted police and then resorted to throwing rocks and bottles, breaking store windows and looting.
Some also blocked roads by starting small fires on the streets, forcing police dressed in riot gear to fire tear gas to restore order.
Early this morning, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit toured affected stores in the City, vowing to issue a full response later in the day.
But in a strong statement issued this morning, National Security Minister Raymond Blackmoore not only described the violence as an attack on the state and democracy, but he blamed the Opposition United Workers Party (UWP) which led the protest.
He charged that the “stage was set by the leadership and operatives of the UWP” to attack the police and destroy properties in Roseau.
Saying the violence was “not Dominican”, he said “such acts are totally unacceptable” and vowed that police would get to the bottom of the incident.
“The police will continue to do its assessment of the situation for the express purpose of embarking on the necessary steps to maintain law and order in this country and to bring . . . all the culprits responsible to justice,” Blackmoore said
He praised police for their quick intervention and rubbished claims that they used unnecessary force.
“The police demonstrated the highest level of restraint and diligence and managed to stabilize the situation…”
However, UWP leader Lennox Linton has categorically denied that the violence had anything to do with the party’s meeting.
He said he condemned the “baseless criticism as forcefully as we condemn the lawlessness visited on the capital city on Tuesday night”.
Stressing that the disturbance occurred hours after the UWP’s meeting ended, he called on those responsible to “speak the truth”.
“The United Workers Party condemns the acts of violence and vandalism that erupted in the streets of Roseau during the evening of February 7, 2017, causing widespread loss and damage to business enterprises and triggering fears for safety and security in a season of heightened tension in our practice of civility,” he said in a video posted on Facebook.
Linton said the UWP would meet in an emergency session today to discuss the incident.