'Correct the narrative'

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'Correct the narrative'

Trelawny businessman urges Police High Command to conduct “balanced research” of Coral Gardens massacre

Thursday, May 14, 2020

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FALMOUTH, Trelawny -Businessman Mark Campbell, the brother of retired policeman Errol Campbell, who was badly injured during the 1963 Coral Gardens massacre, has called for the police high command to undertake a “balanced research” on the much publicised incident.

“What has happened over the years, and has really hurt my family, is that the narrative of what happened in Coral Gardens has been stolen by the Rastafarian community and the greater Jamaican society at large,” said Campbell.

“For the past 57 years, the country of Jamaica has seen the rewriting of that story [Coral Gardens massacre], so much so that when it was decided that the state should compensate, they only spoke about the Rastafarians. History should not be distorted. I am urging the police high command to do a balanced research and have the reference written properly, so for posterity what happened at Coral Gardens must not be blamed on the police.”

The Trelawny businessman was speaking at a handing over of cheques ceremony under the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) COVID-19 Care programme to retired members of the Trelawny Police Division at the divisional headquarters in Falmouth recently.

It is reported that between Thursday, April 11 and Friday, April 12, 1963 bloody violence flared up at Coral Gardens, then a farming community in St James, resulting in the death of eight people, the injury of hundreds, and destruction of property.

Following this, there were allegations of violation and deprivation of the fundamental rights of Rastafarians, many of whom were not involved in the events at Coral Gardens in 1963.

The Rastafarians claimed that they were targeted, beaten, tortured and locked up by police officers after reports surfaced that a gang of Rastafarians, armed with machetes and daggers, launched a Holy Thursday attack that left eight men, including two policemen, dead.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in a presentation to Parliament in April 2017, apologised for the State's role in the incident and promised compensation to victims and families of the deceased through the establishment of a trust fund of $10 million.

At the brief ceremony, Campbell collected a cheque on behalf of his brother— under the JCF COVID-19 Care programme— who was chopped in the back and head during the incident.

“My brother was on his day off when his colleagues asked him to join them on their journey to Coral Gardens where they were responding to a call of a riot and the burning of a gas station. Back in those days, all the policemen had were batons and guns without cartridges—empty guns. So my brother, who has consistently told the same story, said that when they arrived on the scene and saw the Rastafarians and they told them to drop their hatchets, the Rastafarians all dropped their hatchets. However, one policeman clicked his guns and they [Rastafarians] realised that the guns were empty guns and they took up back the hatchets and turned on them [the police], and so in the melee that followed, my brother fell and they stood over him and chopped him up. He has two huge chops in his back and one in his head. He was chopped with his face to the ground,” said Campbell.

Added Campbell: “That part of the story has not been highlighted, and it would seem as if the policemen were the ones at fault, and as a result, I am urging the police high command to correct the narrative as it relates to the police force.”

— Onome Sido


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