HOPE FOR CHANGE

More than 3,000 come to­gether to show sol­i­dar­ity at JC’s peace­ful protest against at­tacks on chil­dren

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Ja­son Cross Gleaner Writer

MORE THAN 3,000 peo­ple flocked Ja­maica Col­lege (JC) in St An­drew yes­ter­day to give sup­port to a si­lent protest against at­tacks on the na­tion’s youth, in the wake of last week’s mur­der of 14-year-old stu­dent Nicholas Fran­cis.

Fran­cis was stabbed in the chest dur­ing a rob­bery at­tempt on a Toy­ota Coaster bus not far from the school on Old Hope Road.

Par­ents, stu­dents, teach­ers, min­is­ters of gov­ern­ment, mem­bers of the Op­po­si­tion and oth­ers turned out in sol­i­dar­ity with JC, many bear­ing plac­ards de­pict­ing var­i­ous mes­sages de­nounc­ing vi­o­lence against chil­dren.

At least two bus­loads of stu­dents from Kingston Col­lege (KC) were trans­ported to JC to par­tic­i­pate in the protest.

Al­most the en­tire Mona High School pop­u­la­tion (ap­prox­i­mately 1,400 stu­dents) walked down to JC from Mona.

Ar­denne High School stu­dents were also present.

While ev­ery­one else stretched from the school gate to Ravinia dur­ing the protest, which lasted for an hour, JC stu­dents lined the in­side of the perime­ter fenc­ing, fac­ing Old Hope Road. IN­DI­VID­UAL DEMON­STRA­TIONS

Cam­pion Col­lege, St An­drew High School and Sts Peter and Paul Prepara­tory School par­tic­i­pated from a dis­tance.

The stu­dents at those schools lined up in their num­bers with plac­ards on side­walks out­side their in­sti­tu­tions.

Ja­maica Col­lege Par­ent-Teacher As­so­ci­a­tion Pres­i­dent Er­rol Holmes told

The Gleaner that other in­sti­tu­tions across the is­land showed their sup­port by putting on demon­stra­tions of their own to co­in­cide with what was go­ing on at JC.

“We un­der­stand that there were other schools across the coun­try, that iden­ti­fied with us. I know that Cam­pion Col­lege, while they did not phys­i­cally come to Ja­maica Col­lege, they had their own peace­ful demon­stra­tion in black, out­side their school com­pound. [There] were other schools across the coun­try, but we are still to get the con­fir­ma­tion,” Holmes told The Gleaner.

Holmes said the whole idea was to en­sure that some­thing mean­ing­ful comes from Nicholas’ death. It was also to demon­strate to the chil­dren of Ja­maica that they are not alone.

“The real is­sue is, Nicholas Fran­cis must not die in vain. His death is a gal­vanis­ing point to make sure that no other child in school in this coun­try should die from this kind of scourge. The first thing was a re­turn to civil so­ci­ety in the eyes of our stu­dents, for them to know that Ja­maica cares and that par­ents and civic lead­ers will stand up,” he said.

Anger is still fresh among many par­ents, some of whom are un­cer­tain whether or not they will al­low their chil­dren to con­tinue tak­ing pub­lic trans­port.

Daine Fraser, par­ent of a KC stu­dent, made the trip to JC be­cause she is adamant that the “fool­ish­ness” must end.

“I have a 14-year-old that goes to KC,

and it pains a lot. What hap­pened should not have hap­pened. The fool­ish­ness has to stop,” she stressed.

Les­lie Grant, a JC par­ent, was hope­ful that the protest would spur change.

“I am hope­ful it will make a change. We have to do some­thing, be­cause the crime can­not con­tinue, [es­pe­cially] see­ing that our stu­dents are now in jeop­ardy,” Grant told The Gleaner.

So­nia Ni­chols, who started to cry while she spoke to The Gleaner, stated that the re­al­ity of the sit­u­a­tion was painful to her.

“My son takes the bus. My son is in third form. He knows Nicholas. I am so an­gry, it’s tear­ing me apart,” she said.

Ni­c­hole Grant Brown told The Gleaner that she had been con­tem­plat­ing let­ting her son take the bus home in the evenings. She said he was no longer in­ter­ested in do­ing so as a re­sult of the in­ci­dent.

“No (he doesn’t take the bus). I was ac­tu­ally pre­par­ing him to take the bus, but he doesn’t want to take the bus any­more,” she said.

PHO­TOS BY RU­DOLPH BROWN/PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Xavier Fran­cis and Petrona Hamil­ton, Nicholas Fran­cis’ par­ents, at the peace­ful protest held yes­ter­day at Ja­maica Col­lege.

The Rev­erend Dr Robert Thomp­son (left) greets Xavier Fran­cis, fa­ther of Nicholas Fran­cis, dur­ing the demon­stra­tion.

PHO­TOS BY RU­DOLPH BROWN/PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Nicholas Fran­cis’ mother, Petrona Hamil­ton (se­cond left), is con­soled by mem­bers of the Ja­maica Col­lege Par­ent-Teacher As­so­ci­a­tion.

Ar­denne High School prin­ci­pal Na­dine Mol­loy (left) and oth­ers take part in the si­lent protest.

For­mer Ja­maica Col­lege stu­dent Dr Peter Phillips (left) with Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Ruel Reid (cen­tre) and for­mer Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Ron­ald Th­waites.

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