Fear grips Linstead Market
On any given Tuesday, Fletchers Avenue in Linstead, St Catherine, would be almost impassable due to the number of vehicles and pedestrians navigating the Linstead Market.
Tuesdays are dubbed 'market days' and hundreds of vendors come in to peddle their wares. Eye-catching fruit and ground provisions are among the highlights, while clothes vendors use their 'sweet' mouth to attract sales. But last Tuesday, Linstead Market was a shadow of its former self. A flare-up of violence has been crippling the livelihood of vendors. They struggled to sell a 'quattie' worth of their goods and produce, as they say buyers fear entering the embattled space.
"More goods deh here more than buyer because the people dem afraid. A lot of vendors gone to other places gone sell, because no one know what is causing this and none a we anuh cat, a just one life we have. From mi see di man dem kill the big woman in the market, mi know say dem nuh have nuh heart, and den dem go burn down di market and never care if a little vendor like myself a go suffer ... all we know is that we 'fraid bad," said a vendor, who gave his name as Junior.
More than a dozen vendors lost their stalls in a suspected case of arson on June 1. It is reported that about 4 a.m., a large fire was observed coming from the market. The police and fire department were alerted and the fire was extinguished. However, 20 stalls were gutted.The Linstead police are investigating.
Alicia Gordon, a mother of seven, said she is still repaying the loan that she took to purchase the goods that were destroyed by the blaze.
"I was on my way to town to buy goods and mi just turn back. I didn't save anything; and in addition to ground provisions, I had a locker with clothes and that [was] lost in the fire, too. I borrowed $200,000 to help maintain the business, and I still have $70,000 to pay. Is almost half a million dollars worth of things I lose, but I have to keep going because I have the kids to send to school," she said.
The 41-year-old, who has been selling in the market for almost two decades, said she and others are taken aback by the violence that has claimed the lives of at least three persons over the past month.
"All of this violence is just shocking. You can't talk, and you just have to wonder where all of this is coming from; and everything is just hard. As 5 o'clock come in the evening, mi just pack and go, and so does everyone else. Sometimes all up to 10 p.m. people always in the market, but not any more," she said.
A frustrated Dovay Keane, 27, said he also took a loan to purchase his goods, while some of the items were taken on credit.
"Honestly, when mi see say mi tings dem burn up, mi start think say people a go cuss fi dem money. Is over $50,000 mi owe and persons were calling me for their money, but mi talk to dem and dem understand. Mi credit some load and start back, and mi borrow some money from mi father, too. Mi have two bwoy pickney; it rough," Keane said.
"Mi never dream say summen like this would happen. Mi 'fraid to come here a day time ya man, because a right next to I a man get shot and dead. Mi traumatised bad," Keane added.
As he sat beside the charred remains of his stall, 54-year-old Ludwig Dixon said it is the generosity of his colleagues that is helping him to pick up the pieces.
"Mi heart almost drop out when mi get the call say the market on fire, and when mi reach mi just have to stand up and watch the things dem burn out. Some a mi colleagues dem give me like all five and 10 pounds of goods, and mi a go sell and pay dem back. Dem a try build mi back up. The profit a go likkle, but mi appreciate it," he said.
Diane Dunbar Watson, market supervisor, said at least 20 persons were affected by last week's fire.
"Those 20 persons have not gotten back on their feet as yet, but the municipal corporation is working as quickly as we can to get the market up and running again. Everyone is afraid because of the violence that is going on, but we have gotten assistance from the police, who walk the market at least eight times daily and in the nights as well. We are trying to get the market more secure. We have security at nights, but we are going to have an upgrade," she said.