MoBay vendors protest cancellation of grand market

MoBay vendors protest cancellation of grand market

BY MARK CUMMINGS
Editor-at-Large
cummingsm@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Mayor of Montego Bay Leeroy Williams yesterday reiterated that there will be no grand market in the resort town this year, even as placard-bearing vendors protested the decision in the streets yesterday.

“I came this morning [yesterday] and I heard that there was a demonstration in front of the municipal building because they heard that I said that there will be no grand market, and if that’s what they hear, then that is perfectly so, because there will be no grand market,” a strident Mayor Williams told reporters.

He noted that on Christmas Eve, when the event is customarily held, sections of Sam Sharpe Square would usually be blocked off and hundreds of people there into the wee hours of the next day.

But with the number of novel coronavirus cases in St James on the increase in recent weeks, the mayor said that the staging of a grand market this year could lead to further spread of the infectious disease.

“I am not encouraging any gathering of large crowds because my fear is that there could be a spike in the COVID[-19] virus, and so I would not want to hear that the mayor of Montego Bay allow persons to gather in large numbers and so contribute to the spike in the COVID-19,” he told reporters.

Mayor Williams first announced that there would be no grand market in the city this year at a virtual COVID Conversations held at S Hotel in Montego Bay last month.

St James has recorded 1,169 COVID-19 cases since March, with 379 recoveries. Twenty-five COVID-19-related deaths have been registered so far in the parish.

Earlier yesterday, the vendors — numbering about 30 — who mostly ply their wares in the heart of the city, started their protest on St James Street, before moving to the municipal corporation building on Union Street, chanting, “We want grand market! We need more time! We want help!”

They argued that the novel coronavirus pandemic has caused a steep drop in revenue, and they were hoping that the grand market would result in a boost in sales.

“Wi a suffer. Things bad, wi need help. Wi have bills and loans to pay,” said one of the vendors who sells clothing.

Vendor Vinette Stewart told the Jamaica Observer that while vendors are cognisant of the deleterious impact of COVID-19, Mayor Williams needs to understand the plight of vendors.

As such, she said, vendors are requesting that they be allowed to ply their wares on selected streets in Montego Bay, from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm on Christmas Eve, instead of the 1:00 pm to 8:00 pm stipulated by the mayor.

“The one o’clock to eight o’clock thing can’t work. We want to start selling from 10:00 am, and we believe that is quite fair because we do understand that it is COVID time, but also he [Williams] has to understand that we have responsibilities. Most of us here are single parents; we have our children to take care of, so we are asking Mr Williams to look into the situation and ease us up,” she argued.

But Mayor Williams is maintaining that the time allotted for the vendors to operate on selected streets is Montego Bay is sufficient.

“I believe that from 1:00 pm up to near when the curfew begins is enough time for them,” he stressed.

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