Downtown shootout: Jamaica on edge

The country was on edge yesterday as rumours started lighting up, first on cellphones, and then the radio, of a shootout in Denham Town, West Kingston. The speculation was wild: had Jamaican security forces finally made a move for Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke in neighbouring Tivoli Gardens?

Everyone was nervous. While we shrug at the daily list of fatal police-gunman shootouts, this was Tivoli. The worst ‘incursion’ by security forces had left 27 dead in 2001. Now of course, the United States wants to extradite Dudus, and removing him, likely by force, threatens a repeat of Mogadishu.

It’s this situation that should remind us how close we’ve been to the edge for a long, long time.

And yet we’re a ‘narco-state’, an island where politicians-criminals-businessman can at times be indistinguishable, except by public pretense. These few photographs were taken while FIRST was downtown today, and in the event, quickly. You’d find these images okay, in your community? Continue reading

The Feed

Jim Brown is still dead, isn't he?

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.

Read the rest of this article at Newsweek HERE


Death in Tivoli Gardens

Photography by Peter Dean Rickards

The pictures don’t say enough, there is blood splattered on the walls, there are holes through the windows and marrow on the floor, they are gruesome, but they are not enough. It is the smell that lingers, that which struck us most upon entering that house, that smell, like meat left for weeks in an unplugged freezer, these were human remains, it is the unmistakable stench of death.

It is oddly quiet in the community, despite the bustling traffic on its exterior, unsupervised children play games on the concrete and I wonder for a moment if this is the right place, then we draw closer. There are easily more than one hundred tiny bullet holes in the tin window on the top floor, but from a distance, on the outside the house looks like any other on its scheme, a two-storey wedged in between other two-stories. Inside it is a slaughterhouse, like something out of a movie I had never wanted to see, and I feel the temperature fall as I step inside out of the stifling Tivoli heat. Complete and total disarray, like a storm had blown through.

Sunday dinner remains seasoned and uncooked on the kitchen sink, and the flies watch as their larvae wriggle to life. There are pictures strewn all over the upstairs floor not far from the front page of The Outlook; even the dresser, the bedroom closet, a Styrofoam box has bullet holes, life has been interrupted here. The bloody, bullet-holed pillow sitting on top of what I assume had once been used as a dining table screams that this was no small effort – had they stripped him here, the one whose blooded, tattered jeans remain?

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Music, Video & Entertainment

Thursday Night at the Fights Main Event: Leo Versus Kong

So, after four weeks of wild entertainment at Kingston’s best kept secret, Thursday Night at the Fights, those who’ve been following the scores know that reigning champion Leo has been hard pressed to find a challenger. After he punched the chicken foot soup out of his last opponent a few weeks ago it appeared for a while that nobody seemed up to the task…until last night.

Enter Kong. A dangerous looking character with blood in his eyes, arriving by SUV and quickly escorted into the square by his ‘trainer’ at approximately 12:15 am.

The usual spectators suddenly found themselves scrambling for a better view as hundreds more caught word of the challenge and hurriedly made their way to ringside. Although Thursday Night at the Fights is never poorly attended, this was by far the largest turnout. People climbed higher up into trees and onto roofs as Leo’s crew started to make their way (with Vegas-like fanfare) through the thick crowd via the empty land to the back.

Wads of money appeared as the contenders’ respective camps haggled over the prize money, which had now reached a purse of J$40,000.

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