Photograph: Busy Signal, Peter Dean Rickards
And so, it would seem, is Lester Lloyd Coke, as Jim Brown was identified in dozens of U.S. and Jamaican police files. Still, on walls all around Kingston, the graffiti say FREE JIM BROWN, the alias he rode to the top of the Jamaican capital’s drug -fueled slums. To his friends, Brown was a hero who rose above the despair of Jamaica’s ghettos.
In Kingston’s slums, he was a key enforcer for former prime minister Edward Seaga’s Jamaica Labor Party; Seaga himself called Brown the “protector” of Kingston’s poor, and helped lead the don dadda’s funeral. But to local police-who had tried, and failed, to pin 14 separate murder charges on him– Brown was the most influential of the city’s gangland bosses. When he mysteriously burned to death late last month in a maximum-security cell, Brown was within days of being extradited to face U.S. murder and drug-racketeering charges; suspicions ran high that he was silenced because he knew too much.
Guns swept into Jamaican ghetto politics in the mid-1970s. That is when Kingston’s worst slum areas—places with names like Concrete Jungle, Dunkirk, Trenchtown and Jim Brown’s own Tivoli Gardens-were carved into so-called “garrison constituencies,” controlled, Chicago style, by shifting hierarchies of local bosses for both leading parties. Jamaican involvement in the 1980s cocaine boom increased the power of the bosses.
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