Monday, July 12, 2010

Cops and Robbers

There are lots of things that happen in the course of a normal day here that would be anything but normal in the US. Today I saw something that is a little bit strange even for Guinea-Bissau. I hopped in a taxi this morning to run a few errands downtown and as we neared the police station in our neighborhood I saw a huge crowd of people. It was sprinkling, so it seemed a little odd that they would all be standing outside getting wet. As we passed the station itself I saw about 10 police officers with rifles dressed in full riot gear. The police usually don't carry guns and I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen them in their helmets and shields.

I started asking around to find out what was going on. Apparently yesterday there was a dispute between a guy selling cell phone credit and a guy who bought credit from him and said that the credit didn't work. The seller ended up calling the police and they came to the scene of the argument.

The police in Guinea-Bissau don't have too many options. The jail is only really for murders so all other crimes are usually either dealt with by someone paying them a “fine” or by someone getting beat. This time the police sided with the seller and the guy who wanted his money back ended up getting beaten. I'm not sure if he just just wanted a refund or if he had stolen money from the seller to get his money back.

The police beat the guy so severely that when he arrived home his family took him straight to the hospital but by the time they got there he had died. This morning the family marched over to the police station with the body and demanded some answers. A crowd formed rapidly, shots were fired in the air, riot gear was broken out, and more people came to see what was going on. When I passed the police station to go into town there were about 200 people in the crowd and maybe 10 officers, when I passed an hour later on the way home there were probably about 300 people in the crowd and at least 25 officers.

We've been asking people we know at the Youth Center what they think is going to happen. Since the guy who died was just a normal guy people seem to think it will pass and nothing more will come of it.
Pretty sad when you think about it. No consequences other than just a tense day with a big crowd of people and having to wear extra gear in the rain.

Stuff like this just reminds me how grateful I am for the police in the US. I have never seen a police officer in Guinea-Bissau and felt safe. I've never had one speak to me except to harass me to try to get a bribe. In the US I don't even know how many times I've been helped and protected by our fine men and women in uniform.

We're leaving in two days, so I guess that's what's making me a little reminiscent :-)

I will leave you with a few pictures of my adorable, gigantic belly :-)

25 Weeks - living large :-)

26 Weeks - on the balcony in front of our house with the youth center in the background

27 Weeks - for this monumental occasion (entering the third trimester) I had a few assistants. All this week I taught a continuing education seminar for our current English, French, and Computer teachers. One day on break I had a few of them pose with me.

Week 28 will be my last pregnant picture in Bissau. After that we're headed back to the US :-) Hope to see you soon :-)