by clairmont chung
While reasoning with a youth-man-friend from Kitty, it struck me: we are approaching our lowest levels of depravation. We are being robbed and killed by the police and without reprimand from their superiors. It is not new. Some live in fear and silence. This youth left The Edge, a Main Street nightclub, early one morning. He decided to walk home to Kitty, because it was one of those special early mornings: dewy but fresh, wet but dry. He made it all the way from South Cummingsburg, through Albertown and almost Queenstown, next was Kitty, before being stopped. The police, Black Clothes -it’s really a darkish blue, faded-, pulled up. They took his cell phone and returned to their vehicle. He was told not to move. They returned to say his was a stolen phone. He needed his Blackberry. It was a birthday gift from his family. He offered $6000.00 for its return. The police took the $6000.00 relieved him of his remaining cash and drove off. But not before a few timed slaps and uppercuts that left the youth dizzy.
|Motorbike police pose with new tools.(c) Kaieteurnews|
In front of People’s Parliament, maybe the same police, in a pick-up truck, stopped and robbed a young man. He had to solicit money from parliament-the other parliament is on hiatus- to find his way home to West Demerara. I read in Kaieteur News about the boxer’s, Imran ‘Magic’ Khan, encounter with the ‘motorbike’ police. He was threatened and pistol whipped. I myself have been a victim and I am sure there are many more. Those same ‘motorbike’ police pulled me over and asked me, “what yuh gon do for yuhself?”.
Just recently, I was stopped twice in one day. The first was for stopping near the mobile police unit outside Stabroek Market. I slowed. They said that I stopped in a no stopping zone. I disagreed. They said that I would have to go to Brickdam Station and asked to enter my car so we could go. I refused. He said I would have to wait for his sergeant on a motorcycle to escort me. I waited. The bail was $7,500.00 and they would keep the car unless I could produce a local license. I did. That went relatively smooth. On the station bench were all African young men. It’s possible the older citizens paid the ‘tax’ and ‘carried on’. Later the same day I was pulled-over on the Linden Highway. A friend visiting from New York was with me. This was no traffic unit. These men were armed with shotguns and automatic rifles. They parked on the Georgetown side of the highway. One approached and said, “wuh you gon leave wid da boys”. I told him that I had been stopped earlier, in town, and that the police had taken all I had. He waved me through maybe because my friend looked official. It was a robbery. They were armed. I was not. Saying, ‘no’ was a risk. Though they took no cash, I lost a bit of my romanticism, a bit of me. I considered it an escape.
Only last week, I was driving at the back of Lodge near Hamilton Green’s house on my way to Kitty. It’s dark back there. A hand barely visible in my headlights waved me to stop. A figure darker than the dark approached from the right. He was heavily armed. I pressed my window down and asked, ‘Wah hapn?’ He came close, looked at me, and said, ‘carry on’. Again, another escape, I knew others would not be so lucky that night.
More prominent figures like Freddie Kissoon and David Hinds are attacked and their premises burglarized. Even they would admit these actions pale in comparison to murders. But it’s an easy jump. That too is not new, even now with a more sinister quality as part of a political strategy. Of note, some murders attract more attention than some.
Certain segments of our community have always had to go through this harassment: always, while others enjoy greater freedoms in exchange for their silence. Most of us are quiet and some blind. While sharing stories, another youth stated that he was hopeful when police killed Yohance Douglas that something would change, because Yohance was not like the rest. Douglas was a student at the university and, yes, for him there was a louder voice against the injustice, but not loud enough to save Shaquille Grant, or the ‘Linden Three’. It was not loud enough to save us from the past. The 2003 PNCR Press Release on Yohance Douglas’ murder read, “The young victims of this outrage represent the best of young Guyanese manhood. These were serious university students and athletes with healthy and wholesome attitudes to life. The PNCR, and we believe most of Guyana, are convinced beyond any doubt that these young men are not criminals.” The implication is that it’s okay to kill the others: the criminals. They would know.
|New Market Street Soccer Practice. |
The writer is @ right.
The notion that some citizens have more or less rights is the beginning of the end of all our rights. In 1972 Keith Caesar was executed by the police in Tiger Bay. He was 16 and unarmed. All the eyewitnesses agreed on that. There was a fire that burned the Water Street store of Kirpalani: an immigrant businessman. Many of the residents in these forgotten parts of Georgetown exist outside the mainstream economy. Some of the youth and some adults survive on items taken from others and resold. In the days that followed, Keith and his friends set about removing what could be salvaged for resale. The police arrived and everyone scattered. Some said he was still on the fence. Some said his hands were in the air. He was shot and killed. People marched for justice. But there would be none. A resident, not present at the shooting, came forward and testified, lied, that she saw Keith advance with a weapon: as in the police report.
The Movement Against Oppression, MAO, formed in 1970 to combat state violence against our youth: in the aftermath of the execution of ‘Mook’. MAO was multiracial and included many professionals, artists and ghetto legends. Clarence, ‘kid’ Spooner, Clive Thomas, Joshua Ramsammy, Moses Bhagwan, Freddie Kissoon, Sam Martindale, Archie and Harold Snagg, Hubert ‘German’ Urling, Sr. Membership and association was not restricted to Bayrians and included youth from depressed areas throughout the city and beyond: Albouystown, Berlin, Kingston, Breda Street, Buxton, Linden and Agricola. It was said that Mook often paid the police so that he could continue his activities. He was a petty thief. He was executed because he did not have the requested payment at the time. Eyewitnesses identified ‘Fat Keith’ as the police hit-man. MAO was intended to provide outreach to these marginalized youth and a base to challenge a burgeoning system of terror. It effectively ended after Ramsammy was shot outside the Lombard Street, Main Branch of Guyana National Cooperative Bank in October 1971. He survived. In the aftermath, those same petty criminals, African, slept at Ramsammy’s home to protect that family. Subsequently, police raided and locked-up the youth, caretakers, sleeping at MAO’s New Market Street office. Those sentiments would re surge under the WPA and create the political space for the current PPP insurgents.
|Some original MAO members. Front row right is Clive Thomas. At center is Sam Martindale. At the rear, from right is Marc Mathews, Hubert 'German' Urling, Sr. and Harold Snagg. Second from left is Clarence 'Kid' Spooner.|
They were many others. But a few stand out: The double murder of George ‘Longie’ Grumble and Albert Pyle around 1977. Longie was 16 and Pyle 18. Pyle was quiet and shy. Grumble was the energy source of Tiger Bay. There was never anyone like him before or since. He gambled and stole with skill. He spoke with confidence. Wherever a crowd gathered in Tiger bay, Longie was probably in the middle. He could ‘throw dice’ with unbelievable confidence. Longie died together with Pyle and with their hands up. The story is that they had entered a home on Carmichael Street on information that the occupants were abroad. A neighbor called the police who arrived while the perpetrators were in the act: an open and shut case in most places. Even Longie realized the game was up. He was quick and often escaped, but not that day. The two exited, unarmed, with hands upraised in surrender and were blasted with shotguns. The police executioner’s name was ‘Tracker’. Longie was a little over 100 pounds.
Throughout this period, youth in depressed areas in Georgetown and some villages were under a state of emergency. There was no official declaration, but police would sweep often and unexpectedly. The intent seemed to be to disperse ‘limers’ from the corners and generally deter gatherings. Public humiliation often accompanied arrests. For example, victims were told to walk into the gutter or to drop their pants or were beaten. Non-criminals were not spared. So you planned your trips carefully and travelled in groups when possible. Some were taken away and beaten or passed through the courts. Members of the early Rasta movement were often targeted. Many had their locks cut publicly, sometimes in jail, and without scissors.
I fled this madness in 1978 but would return from time to time to visit friends and family. On a 1985 trip I was told, ‘yuh foot short’, that I was late for the funeral of Hubert ‘Punish’ Blackman by 3 days. He was murdered by the police. This was a real blow. The others I knew only in passing, but Punish I considered a friend. We played street soccer together and were part of a formidable team against Rosemary Lane: in Tiger Bay proper. We had been locked-up together, I for one night, in one of the frequent ‘sweeps’: sudden police attacks. We spent that night at Eve Leary. The less you know about that place is probably best. Avoid it if you can.
|Hubert 'Punish' Blackman in foreground,|
at rear right is Sam Martindale and left is
Thombi from Agricola
In the cell, I met a youth I knew from Queen’s College, a Rasta; both important facts. Rasta dominated any other pedigree he shared. He fainted as I entered. He later explained he had been in there without charges for a few months. They took him out early the next morning. I never saw or heard of him again. The cell was pitch black and crowded with about 16 men sitting on the floor in a room about 15 feet by 20 feet. Punish had a warrant against his name and I wouldn’t see him for another 6 months.
When I heard of his death, I was still young and had hoped we would hook-up again and terrorize Rosemary Lane at soccer. It was not to be. He did own the silver night-scoped handgun as claimed in newspaper reports, but did not have it at the daytime brightness of his murder. This is not a sugar coating. Some of the victims of police violence have caused pain and suffering to others. But the racial and economic disparity in the use of violence is more reprehensible than the violence itself and summary execution is inhuman even in war.
Then, like now, certain segments of the community travelled with full freedom. If stopped, accidently, one need only display one’s credentials or state one’s pedigree and everything would be fine. I was not sure why I was waived through that night behind Lodge. Perhaps, I am moving up in the world. But these dead men had no credentials. It’s imperative that we come forward and tell our stories and scream real loud about what we see and experience and for all citizens. Some of these experiences were so traumatic for its victims that some have forgotten. Another Rasta friend remarked he had forgotten that police detained him and cut his locks off with a knife until our conversation. Not knowing what went before we took this as part of the course of our lives: abnormal but normal.
We now know, this scenario has been repeated forever. It began when the first Africans arrived as captured labor and has not stopped. In the 1823 Demerara Rebellion, Jack Gladstone and his father, Quamina, among others were tried and the ring leaders sentenced to death. They were executed by firing squad, several beheaded and their heads placed on poles along the Coast to stand as a reminder. Our lives have never had equal value to land owners. At least those resistors enjoyed the benefit of a trial. Of note: Jack Gladstone was deported. The indentures that followed to replace slave labor were themselves restricted to their logies. Protest was not tolerated. Free movement and assembly was not even an expectation: much less a right. Overseers kept us in line. Death was the reward for courage.
|Ringleaders in the aftermath of the 1823 rebellion|
Between then and now, and excluding the civil war of the early 1960s, arguably, this undeclared state of emergency reached another peak after the Georgetown Prison break of 2002. A wave of violence followed that claimed between four and six hundred lives and overwhelmingly African. Many remain unaccounted. It was a genocidal attack on African males. If we choose the lower number of 400 lives, it represents a little over 0.3 percent of my estimated population of African descended males in Guyana. I estimate the number at around 120,000. For effect, killing the same percentage of African descended males in the US would mean 40,000 African-American men, of their estimated 12,000,000, killed in the period of 6 years.
The US is no different. There is a global attack on African males. Trayvon Martin’s murder is international news. Recently, a sick, unarmed, Vietnam veteran and retired corrections officer, Kenneth Chamberlain was gunned down in his own home by the police in White Plains, New York. He had accidently triggered his medical alert bracelet. The medical alert company called the local emergency units. The police arrived, but Mr. Chamberlain refused to let them in. He said from the safety of his apartment that the police would kill him if he allowed them to enter. He was right. The police broke the door down, shot him with non-lethal rounds, then with a Taser, and then blasted him with a shot gun. In both the Martin and Chamberlain cases the prosecutor, the equivalent of our Department of Public Prosecutions, declined to press charges against the shooters. Only after public pressure, were investigations launched and in the Chamberlain case the Prosecutor decided against filing charges against the police. All across the planet, numerous cases follow similar facts.
The discussion of which party and racial group exacts, or exacted, the greater human rights violations is one grounded and thriving in ignorance. But so too are issues of race. Not to see the connection between Kenneth Chamberlain and Shaquille Grant is a product of that ignorance. That both the ruling PPP and its most vociferous opponents call for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Guyana is further testament. The attitude towards Africa’s descendants in America is one subscribed to by the DEA and its war on drugs and now terror. Why else, of all the terror threats facing the US, would the US find a resident of Region 10, Abdul Kadir, to arrest as part of some crazy unworkable scheme to blow up the JFK airport in New York City? It is this racist attitude that is funneling increasing numbers of brown and black youth back to Guyana: deported.
Among Guyana’s opposition, it is often talked about as though these attitudes began in 1992. This is not the case. To believe this is to dangerously pander to party politics and would result in a solution that could kill us all and not solve the problem. On these facts the only culprit would be the ruling Indian dominated Peoples Progressive Party. The solution would be easy: attack Indians. Unless we can see racial profiling and victimization in its world context, a civil war is going to be the result. But that does not prevent, it informs, efforts to end this practice in Guyana. But we have to deal with the reality of power in Guyana today and that is the People’s Progressive Party. The PPP is very different from Indians and Indians need to make that point. The young man from Kitty is Indian as is the boxer, Imran Khan. No one, no group, will escape. However, there is no question which group bears the burden of these crimes against the community: against humanity.
If they, the powerful, are stealing our money for mansions and a continuous party, we shouldn’t expect the underlings to operate differently. Attitudes, unlike money, trickle down and spread.
We are mourning again in Guyana. This time it’s Shaquille Grant the almost 18 year-old boy from Agricola. We are still fresh from deaths of the three murdered at the Wismar-Mackenzie bridge: Shemroy Bouyea, Allan Lewis and Ron Somerset. Longie, Punish, Pylie, Mook and Keith were engaged in another economy: excluded from the main economy. Their crimes were nowhere near the magnitude of crimes now being committed in our name. A car stereo here, a purse in a locked car-trunk, maybe a little ganja trade, cannot compare with the level of cocaine traffic, money laundering and exorbitant public works contract awards.
These young men were not part of any protest against the injustice of increased electricity rates. They are the products of the injustice of inequality. Perhaps they could have made other choices as some would argue. Live and die by the sword some might add. Like Brian Chung who recently thought he could stop police harassment, and them taking his proceeds, by enlisting the help of their superiors. Together they planned to give the rogue cops marked money, made the transaction, pursued them, found them with the marked money and incarcerated them. Within days the rogue police made bail and even sooner Chung was dead: executed in his own yard. We did not say anything because he was a Rasta and a known weed-man. No investigation followed. But death without trial, unarmed, and posing no physical threat, cannot be protected by any law and even death does not guarantee silence.
Indians, Amerindians, women and children have been caught in this fire. African men have relationships, are parts of families, and a larger community. So this is an attack on our women, our children, our communities and the society as a whole. The whole community needs to move now. In his statement to the press, Shaquille Grant’s friend and eyewitness to his murder, Jamal Henry, said he wanted to see his friend get his rights. We must see that it’s all our rights, and particularly the most vulnerable among us. Our money, our lives, and our future is being stolen: mortgaged. We must come forward and tell our stories. It’s the only way to make Shaquille the last victim of the real gangsters.
|Kelvin Fraser, 16 years old murdered by |
police on June 7, 2010
|Twyon Thomas 14 years old tortured and genitals burned |
by police in October 2009 during questioning on a murder