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St. Maarten: Prime Minister slams impromptu ‘Jouverts’

On what would have been Jouvert Morning if Carnival 2020 had gone ahead as planned and in the face of the 24-hour curfew imposed by government, residents of Dutch Quarter and Fort Willem held separate impromptu “Jouvert” jump-ups early Monday morning. Police were called to break-up both events.

The first occurred in the 911 projects in Dutch Quarter sometime between 12:00am and 1:00am. Dozens of Dutch Quarter residents left their homes and danced in the street behind a car blaring the sounds of St. Maarten’s own No Limit Band. The scene left many St. Maarten residents in disbelief as videos of the event circulated widely on social media.

Even Prime Minister and Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Chairperson Silveria Jacobs commented on one of the videos. “Well well well,” said Jacobs in one post, followed by a question, “So nobody listens anymore?”

The roughly 20 to 30 revellers seemed to have planned out the event in minute detail. The car they were jamming behind had large speakers mounted to its roof, and the persons dancing behind it donned traditional Jouvert attire. Some revellers threw baby powder into the air and others held palm branches above their heads, swaying to the sweet music. Several persons were seen wearing protective face masks as well.

Shortly after it began, police were called to break-up the event. This sent the revellers scattering in the darkness, ending their brief moment of rebellion. At least four police vehicles were seen in the area of the 911 projects.

The second jump-up occurred in Fort Willem shortly after daybreak. A white car playing Carnival music travelled through the district and about 10 to 20 revellers jammed behind the car. Like in Dutch Quarter, some persons danced with branches in their hands.

At least four police vehicles and a military truck responded to this jump-up and succeeded in dispersing the revellers.

During a national address on Monday evening, Jacobs was emphatic in her condemnation of the two jump-ups.

“Carnival was cancelled way back in March. Many of you expressed dismay, sadness, et cetera. Carnival was supposed to start last week, and people would post their old pictures, remembering this and remembering that and looking forward to next year.

“But some of us could not wait, could we? It is very disconcerting to me that people are so desperate to go out in the streets and revel that they forget what this lockdown is about. This is about your health. This is about death.

“When you go out, you are running the risk of infecting yourself [and – Ed.] coming home and infecting your entire family,” said Jacobs.

Jacobs warned that punishment will be meted out to those who organised and/or participated in the jump-ups.

“Those of you who went in your little Jouvert jaunt this foreday morning, disrupted your entire neighbourhood and wreaked havoc [and] making fun and jaunting and joisting with the police. Do you think you have gotten away with it? Well think again. The investigation will continue and all those having taken part in this and promoting this will be dealt with within the rules of law,” she said.

Jacobs also said that due to these breaches in the lockdown measures, she is now considering whether the measures will need to be extended.

“We were actually on our way out of a lockdown. The lockdown was supposed to be for two more weeks … With your behaviour, with your lack of discipline and lack of thinking about the other man, now we will have to re-evaluate whether this lockdown will have to continue even longer,” she said.

None of the curfew-breaking partiers have been arrested or fined yet, said police on Monday afternoon. Police said the investigation is ongoing.

The Daily Herald.

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