Police: This is serious; stay home

Hundreds of police and defense force officers were deployed on the streets of New Providence on Friday night.

They were tasked with manning the empty streets and ensuring that Bahamians adhere to a nationwide curfew, which was imposed by Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis last week, in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 in The Bahamas.

Between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., they arrested alleged lawbreakers and checked identifications to ensure that individuals who were driving after hours had been granted permission by authorities.

Commissioner of Police Anthony Ferguson held a press conference in front of police headquarters minutes before this mass deployment.

“I want people to take this very serious,” he said.

“This is not a dolly house and we take this very, very serious and people ought to be extremely serious. It’s really for one’s one health, and you have to respect the health professionals and the order that is given by the prime minister. Certainly, the police and the defense force will carry it out to the tee.”

The commissioner stressed that there “will be no exceptions to the rule”.

“Those persons who should not be out, stay home,” Ferguson said.

He said the public can call 311 if they have any questions during the curfew.

Asked about the protocol for individuals who have to pick up relatives, Ferguson said, “Once you call the number, an officer who answers that will give you direction because you are in a curfew zone. And so, any number of decisions will be taken. [It] may vary to the point where police have to escort you through.”

Not long after the press conference, more than a dozen police vehicles filled with police officers and defense force officers began to speed away from the East Street compound.

Police lights flashed as they passed through nearby communities.

Officers erected and manned barricades at major junctions and intersections across the island.

Night one

After leaving police headquarters, The Nassau Guardian encountered two police officers — both dressed in dark blue — questioning a man who was found outdoors 30 minutes after curfew.

Police instructed the man to place his hands on a metal fence.

One of the officers then said, “We advise you to stay inside until this curfew is over. Do you understand what I just said to you?

The man replied, “I comprehend, sir.”

The officer responded, “Do you understand?”

The man replied, “Comprehend 100 percent.”

The officer said, “Listen to me, I advise you to stay inside your home. I advise you to stay inside your home.”

The man noted that he was headed home “right now”.

Police instructed him to “collect your property” and go home.

The man thanked the police and told them to enjoy their nights.

Not long after that incident, The Guardian observed a police car blaring its sirens and speeding away from East Street.

Reporters followed the officers and arrived at Market Street where several police motorcycles and cars, including a black Ford Explorer, surrounded a white Nissan vehicle. Deputy Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle was also present on the scene.

Some officers searched the vehicle while others handcuffed a man, who was wearing a blue shirt, took him to a patrol car.

Throughout the night, officers equipped with guns and face masks could be seen walking the streets of Nassau.

They routinely stopped individuals who were leaving work at the airport or hotels, requesting that they show identification proving that they are employed at an institution exempted from the curfew.

Nassau was eerily quiet for 10:30 p.m. on a Friday. At some points, the only noise that could be heard was the distant sound of cats fighting.

The Guardian encountered more than a dozen police checkpoints on various parts of the island throughout the night

There were about four checkpoints — protected by metal barricades — between Arawak Cay and Montagu Beach.

Officers requested that Guardian reporters provide official work photo identifications at least three times during the night.

On one occasion, a Guardian reporter was told that she could not move past a barricade unless she provided an official letter of employment.

Night two

New Providence was less busy on Saturday when compared with the night before.

During a drive around the island, The Guardian did not observe as many checkpoints or police officers present.

Reporters encountered a few officers but no major checkpoints during a journey from the Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA) to Kemp Road.

Metal barricades were seen during this drive, however, not all were not functioning as roadblocks. Instead, in some cases, they were on the side of the road.

A few individuals were seen walking on the street between 9:30 p.m. and 10:45 p.m.

One man, who was walking away from a house in the area of East Street, during that time was stopped by a patrol car.

The officers advised the man of the curfew and asked where he was going.

The man replied, “Muddasick, man, I was just headed home.”

After a brief argument with police, the man entered a nearby yard and entered a house.

Not long after leaving that area, reporters for The Guardian were stopped by police at Robinson Road and East Street.

Guardian IDs were shown to police, however, according to officers, that was not sufficient.

“You know you’re not supposed to be on the road tonight, right?” one officer asked.

The officer said the commissioner had informed officers, during a briefing on Saturday, that media would not be allowed out after curfew.

Asked if there was a reason for this, the officer replied, “I can’t tell you.”

According to the prime minister’s order, the curfew, which is in effect until March 31, does not apply to “essential officers of any water, electricity or other sector encompassing the provision of electronic communications including print and electronic media”.

On Saturday, night another news organization was prevented from reporting on the second night of the curfew.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis issued a statement on the matter.

“It has been brought to the attention of my office that a media house was denied access to the streets of New Providence to carry out their work,” he said.

“This should not have happened. I want to make it abundantly clear for all that the COVID-19 Emergency Order allows for the free movement of the media.

“I’ve spoken to the commissioner of police this morning to ensure that these directives continue to be carried out.”

Minister of National Security Marvin Dames said “hundreds and hundreds” of officers are committed to enforcing the curfew.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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