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Residents, police clash in Chatham

SUSAN MOHAMMED Wednesday, August 30 2006

click on pic to zoom in
LITTLE PROTESTER: Shawn Undheim, just one and a half years old, was in the thick of things yesterday in Chatham when villagers mounted another heated ...
LITTLE PROTESTER: Shawn Undheim, just one and a half years old, was in the thick of things yesterday in Chatham when villagers mounted another heated ...

A CONFRONTATION involving Chatham residents protesting the construction of ALCOA’s multi-million dollar smelter plant and Alcoa officials and police threatened to become violent yesterday, when a policeman held one of the protesters at gunpoint.

The incident occurred at about 8 am when residents confronted officials of Alcoa, Bechtel, and Trintoplan at Chatham yesterday.

The officials of the companies had gone to the area to conduct soil samples at Food Crop Road Number 1.

Spokesperson for the Chat-ham/Cap-de-Ville Environmental Protection Group, Ricky Undheim, told Newsday that a policeman began waving a firearm at the group when villagers attempted to speak to a surveyor on the site.

Undheim, 29, told Newsday, “We stopped to speak to him (surveyor’s name called) because he promised he would speak to us before coming to do the soil sampling.

We tried to stop the car so that he could speak to us. A policeman came out from the front seat and pulled a gun at one of us. He began to curse and shout threats saying, ‘Some of all yuh go die here.’ I can’t believe this is what this situation has come to.”

Undheim said the confrontation involved about 150 residents of the area who came out to protest yesterday morning when word spread at about 7.30 am that Alcoa officials had gone to the Chatham site. Undheim said the group believed that Alcoa officials and workers came to conduct soil sampling for a feasibility study of the area. Another Chatham resident, Sheriff Mohammed, 64, said he and other villagers were conducting a peaceful protest when nine vehicles — two of which were loaded with Special Branch and other policemen — escorted Alcoa officials to the site.

Undheim said the nine vehicles passed the protesters at Food Crop Road junction at about 8 am before heading into Food Crop Road 1. Undheim said the female protesters followed the vehicles, chanting prayers and singing religious songs.

Mohammed told Newsday a female protester contacted them via cell phone to report that they were being abused by Alcoa officials. He said as he and other male protesters began heading into Food Crop Road 1, they sought answers from a surveyor who they saw driving out of the road.

“When we saw his (the surveyor’s) car,” Undheim told Newsday, “ we tried to stop him so we could speak to him. We tried to speak to him but instead we got a gun pulled on us. The policeman pulled a gun on unarmed people.” Mohammed said that the people of Chatham were only concerned for their health and safety, and that of future generations. He declared, “The people of Chatham are seriously against that smelter plant which they want to build here. That is unacceptable.”

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