SANDY GROUND--A crowd of youths blocked the main road in Sandy Ground on Monday afternoon, protesting a still unfinished basketball court that apparently had been promised to be delivered completely renovated in July.
The disturbance began around 3:00pm with barricades of garbage bins placed in the middle of the road, as well as a basketball post and hoop. A section of the road near the Cultural Centre was completely blocked to traffic for a few hours.
Gendarmes and Territorial Police were on the scene immediately to control a gathering crowd, but the Gendarmerie indicated that despite the tension, the situation remained calm and the youths were not aggressive. Some of them were even playing basketball and soccer in the middle of the road.
Gendarmerie spokesman Capitaine Sylvain Jouault said the youths demanded an explanation about the state of the basketball court from President of the Collectivité Aline Hanson and Préfet Philippe Chopin. Hanson and Préfecture Chef de Cabinet Emmanuel Effantin duly went down to talk to the young people, but what was discussed was not known. Neither could be reached by phone last night.
Union General de Travailleurs de Guadeloupe (UGTG) representative Cedric André, who was representing the young protestors, said: "There is a much wider issue here about the lack of sports facilities and activities, and a Maison de Jeunes in Sandy Ground, but the focus today was on the basketball court.
"You do not see this lack of infrastructure in places like Guadeloupe and Martinique, only in St. Martin. The President at first was reluctant to meet the youths, but eventually she came down when they said they would not remove the barriers until she talked to them."
André said a meeting had been arranged for November 24 at 10:30am, to resolve the matter.
Capitaine Jouault said the barricades had been removed at 6:00pm and the crowd dispersed.
District Six representative Georges "Bajan" Richardson said he had not been in Sandy Ground at the time of the incident, but said the situation could have been handled in a better way, rather than blocking the main road and inconveniencing everyone, especially when school is out.
"It seems the young people are getting too frustrated now at the time it is taking to get the court finished," he said. "They were trying to send a message to authorities that they want a court to play on. The young people were told that the court would be ready in July.
"The renovation had already started, but apparently the posts to hold the rims were on a boat that broke down with engine problems and so has been delayed. Quite a bit of work has been done on the court to date. Even after Gonzalo, technicians were installing lights for the court. It's up to the authorities to explain the situation to the young people. Keeping silent on the matter is not a good thing."
No contact could be made with any of the young people for a more detailed explanation of their grievance.