Chaos, street fires and tear gas Thursday took centre stage along Haile Selassie and Jogoo roads after police got into running battles with traders from Wakulima and Marikiti markets.
Business was brought to a standstill after the traders who were protesting the arrest of their chairman identified Cyrus Kaguta and five others by the authorities, lit fires smack in the middle of the roads causing a heavy traffic snarl up.
As early as 7.am, the scene was dotted with Administration police officers as well as regular police who were armed to the teeth with rungus and teargas canisters ready to take on the frantic traders.
Thick smoke emanating from the fires and teargas wrenched the air as the traders hurled soda bottles, stones and anything they could get their hands on at the police.
The traders were also protesting the high county rates charged to them.
Trouble however began on Wednesday evening after City County officers made their way to Marikiti market and arrested five traders among them, the traders association chairman Cyrus Kaguta and confiscated their goods.
According to Florence Kongwe - a clothes seller at Muthurwa- this triggered a verbal confrontation between the city authorities and traders and quickly escalated to violence.
“The traders were angered by the arrest of their chairman and they proceeded to beat up one of the County officers and it is only then that the officers fled only for police to show up this morning,” she stated.
But the situation only got worse after the traders on Thursday morning literally sparked protests demanding the release of their colleagues.
This paralysed operations along the busy Landhis road, OTC, Muthurwa and Haile Selassie much to the peril of city residents headed to work.
At one point, the traders shattered a bus’s windows and removed its tires after it tried to force its way through the protestors who had blocked Landhies road. Others took advantage of the situation to loot and make away with unpaid bills.
The traders vowed to continue with the protests until their officials were released.
“We had been informed that those arrested had been taken to central police station but we went there and we were barred from seeing them or bailing them out. These protests will stop only after their release,” exclaimed Kevin Owino, a worker at marikiti as a parking attendant.
Maina Kago, also a trader was dismayed by the arbitrary arrests by city authorities citing extortion and violence meted on traders as reasons for the protests.
He said officers had been arresting the traders and demanding for kickbacks to the tune of Sh1, 000.
“This has been going on to the extent that the authorities are now arresting innocent passers-by who are mistaken for traders. Governor Mike Sonko should intervene,” he added.
Central Police OCPD, Robinson Thuku corroborated the cause of the protests saying the traders had been arrested for violation of City by-laws.
He was however at pains to explain what y-laws they had contravened saying they were yet to get to the bottom of it.
“We are yet to identify the crimes they committed but our obligation is to restore order. The protests are an act of hooliganism because once arrested it is only the court that can acquit the traders. They should stop it,” stated Thuku.