‘We hate the sol­dier dem’

Irate Tivoli res­i­dents protest al­leged beat­ings by se­cu­rity forces

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Paul Clarke/Gleaner Writer paul.clarke@glean­erjm.com

TIVOLI GAR­DENS res­i­dents have ac­cused mem­bers of the Ja­maica De­fence Force (JDF) of phys­i­cal abuse and of threat­en­ing to shoot in­dis­crim­i­nately at young men in the com­mu­nity.

The res­i­dents’ at­tempt to use de­bris and aban­doned ve­hi­cles to block a sec­tion of Span­ish Town Road on Wed­nes­day were thwarted by the swift ac­tion of the po­lice, whose pres­ence, along­side a heavy con­tin­gent of JDF per­son­nel, kept the protest peace­ful though tense.

Dis­tressed res­i­dent Stacey-Ann Har­ri­son al­leged that her 17-year-old son was dragged from her house min­utes af­ter mid­night and beaten by sol­diers.

“We hate the sol­dier dem. They have no re­spect and no man­ners to­wards the peo­ple,” shouted Har­ri­son.

She al­leged that the com­man­der on the ground gave a “shoot” com­mand at any­one who moved and that she felt help­less as blows rained down on her child.

“I was com­ing out the house with my lit­tle baby, who has a heart prob­lem, and I was shocked when the com­man­der said any­thing move, shoot. Even if a dog move, shoot,” she re­counted.

Home­less res­i­dent Ge­orge Ed­wards said that he, too, was beaten by sol­diers while de­mand­ing to be told where “the guns were being hid”.

“I was kicked and punched mul­ti­ple times as the sol­diers were irate,” said Ed­wards, who has been liv­ing there for three years.

The fury be­hind Wed­nes­day’s demon­stra­tion stemmed from a fierce fire­fight be­tween gun­men and the se­cu­rity forces in sec­tions of the com­mu­nity, namely Lizard Town, Courts, and Java, on Mon­day night. The nearby Rae Rae Mar­ket was burnt to the ground, al­legedly by the gun­men, as a di­ver­sion­ary tac­tic.

In its wake, irate res­i­dents are com­plain­ing about the treat­ment meted out to them.

Kingston West­ern Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment Desmond McKen­zie, who vis­ited the com­mu­nity yes­ter­day, told The Gleaner that res­i­dents had de­scribed the Mon­day gun bat­tle as fright­en­ing.

McKen­zie con­firmed that he re­ceived reports that some mem­bers of the se­cu­rity forces had taken a heavy-handed ap­proach to res­i­dents of Tivoli Gar­dens. He said that he had raised the con­cerns with the Po­lice High Com­mand.

“What­ever neg­a­tive peo­ple might have about West Kingston and the peo­ple of Tivoli Gar­dens in par­tic­u­lar, the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple here are lawabid­ing, de­cent peo­ple,” said McKen­zie.

“I would not deny that there are some among the res­i­dents who would do any­thing against the law and have been do­ing that, but the ma­jor­ity obey the law.”

Mon­day night’s cross­fire erupted when a team of po­lice and sol­diers en­tered the com­mu­nity to shut down a nine-night that drew more than 300 peo­ple.

The po­lice re­ported that when they at­tempted to dis­perse the crowd, they were fired upon by gun­men from Lizard Town.

One cop said what she saw was mainly young­sters - about 13 to 19 years old - and that “some of them couldn’t even man­age guns”.

KENYON HEMANS/PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Stacey-Ann Har­ri­son is emo­tional as she makes al­le­ga­tions of abuse to Su­per­in­ten­dent Leighton Gray (se­cond left) and Kingston West­ern Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment Desmond McKen­zie dur­ing a protest along Span­ish Town Road on Wed­nes­day.

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