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Christiana cab drivers press for expanded park

“I am still in pain,” said 39-year-old taxi operator Jermaine Cunningham, the man at the centre of a controversial video who was allegedly beaten by the police over traffic breaches in Christiana, Manchester, on Wednesday.

Cunningham, who began crying as he spoke with The Gleaner, said his agony is compounded by the fact that he is now unable to work and fend for his three children – ages six, 12, and 14 – for whom he is the sole breadwinner.

“If mi nuh carry something go put pon di table, dem cyaa survive. A bere pain mi a feel all over mi body. Mi hardly can walk. Mi haffi a walk an’ a draw one side, an’ mi have mi pickney dem fi send a school. How mi a guh send dem a school?” a weeping Cunningham questioned.

“Right now, mi have mi fi pay mi loan and a it mi haffi a use run up and down a doctor,” he continued, adding that he was also seeking to retain the services of a lawyer.

Adding to that, the cabbie said that his children are traumatised by his ordeal.

“A bere tears a dem eye when dem see how di police dem a handle mi and mi a nuh thief, mi a nuh robber,” said Cunningham as he cried.

Recounting the events leading to the incident, Cunningham said: “Six to seven vehicles in front mi, and ‘bout seven vehicles deh behind mi, so mi in the middle and the police point out pon ‘bout three a wi seh wi a obstruct traffic, an’ mi seh, ‘Wi cyaa obstruct nuh traffic. A down here so wi fi park. Wi nuh have no other place fi go. Wi cyaa go up, wi cyaa go down’.”

He said the police officer then requested his driver’s licence and the vehicle’s documents, but he refused to hand them over.

“Mi seh, ‘Mi nuh obstruct no traffic, so mi nuh see no reason fi give yuh mi papers’. So him leave and mi a do my business a look passenger. But when mi deh ‘round a di trunk, mi feel when somebody grab on pon mi left side and seh, ‘Yuh nuh hear fi give mi yuh papers?’ And him start fight mi and beat mi up,” Cunningham related.

He further alleged that he was again beaten while handcuffed at the Christiana Police Station.

After almost two decades in the transportation sector, Cunningham, who plies the Albert Town, Trelawny, to Christiana, Manchester, route, now harbours fears of being on the road.

Shirley Johnson, president of the Central Manchester Taxi Association, is said they have long been lobbying for the expansion of the taxi park.

The taxi operators said they were dislocated over a year ago when a fast food company acquired the lot from which they operated to build a new restaurant.

Johnson told The Gleaner that he was upset at the manner in which Cunningham was reportedly treated.

“In a school, yuh can’t even beat pikney again. Teachers and parents can’t beat pikney. They will get charged for ill treatment, and to see in the public, police beat up di man like that?” Johnson fumed.

He said arrangements were being made for the taxi operators to meet with the police, Manchester North Eastern Member of Parliament Audley Shaw, who is also the transport minister, and other stakeholders. Previous meetings had ended in promises which did not come to fruition.

“The park can’t hold everyone because it’s nearly 200 taxis in and out of that place. There is handcart, market folk, everybody mix up and it’s a problem,” he said.

Johnson said that a businessman had also offered his property for use by the taxi operators, but stakeholders have not made good on promises to assist with getting trucks to transport material to bring the area to a suitable state.

Ruby Parton, president of the North East Manchester Taxi Association, said she was also taken aback by reports of the incident.

“It’s very horrible. ... You should see the man’s body with brushes and he’s not a troublemaker,” she said.

Attempts by The Gleaner to get a comment on the investigation from Deputy Superintendent Shane McCalla, who heads the Manchester Police Division, were unsuccessful as his phone repeatedly rang without answer.