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‘I got $50 to carry placards with racist slurs’

By Newsday Staff Thursday, May 29 2014

A homeless man yesterday admitted he and others were paid to hold up placards with racial slurs outside Parliament on Friday last.

In an interview with CNC3 News, Norbert Cupid said he was at Woodford Square, Port-of-Spain when he was approached by a man of African descent. The man told him and others he had a job for them and gave them the placards and red T-shirts. He sent them down to the Port-of-Spain waterfront, near where UNC and COP supporters had assembled to show their support for the People’s Partnership Government, even as trade union leaders and the Opposition PNM were beginning a march against the administration.

In the interview, Cupid said angry persons who saw them rushed at them and one of his homeless associates was struck. Cupid said he encouraged those who were with him to disperse but some moved across to the demonstration.

They later returned to Woodford Square where the man who hired them paid them $50 each. He said he did not know which political party the man supported or belonged to.

Cupid said he was not a racist and was just desperate for something to eat when he accepted the offer. He said he had no political preference and he would do anything to get off the streets.

The report comes as Acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams has ordered an investigation into the use of placards with racist statements by persons outside the Parliament last Friday.

This was revealed by Assistant Superintendent Joanne Archie during yesterday’s weekly police press briefing at the Police Administration Building, Port-of-Spain.

A superintendent from the Northern Division had been assigned to probe the incident.

The action comes hours after Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley made a public call for the police to investigate the use of placards with racist statements displayed by persons before a public march last Friday.

The PNM and People’s Partnership have accused each other of planting persons with inflammatory messages, which they both condemned.

However, president of the Police Social and Welfare Association Inspector Anand Ramesar yesterday objected to comments Rowley directed to the Police Service, during media conference on Tuesday, that if the police failed to act on his complaint it could be perceived as incompetence.

Ramesar said Rowley’s comments were unwarranted adding too often the association has seen politicians attack the Police Service without consideration of the repercussions on public confidence. He said many citizens depend on police officers to carry out their duty impartially and without fear or favour.

“The comments of Dr Rowley on Tuesday at the press briefing appears to be loaded with unnecessary political pressure and one without regard to the fact that the service is one which is making a lot of leaps and bounds, in so far as engendering professionalism and competence amongst its officers. The association calls on all political entities to refrain from using the Police Service as a political football and to allow the service to breathe without political interference or pressure.”

With respect to Rowley’s call for the Acting Commissioner to launch an investigation into the use of placards with racist messages, Ramesar said “that while the Commissioner is competent and needs no prodding to make a decision on his own, the context in which the call was made has compromised any decision.”

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