And Justice for Tivoli Gardens? Memento mori…

Keeping Tivoli Gardens in the picture…memento mori by Michael Thomspon

Tivoli. What of Tivoli. What of the Tivoli 73. Let’s not forget…

All posters above are by graphic designer Michael Thompson. He’s produced a stream of unforgettable images to sear the unspeakable nature of this act of war into our memories. I will let him speak for himself. The folliowing is a quote from him that accompanied the series above on Facebook:

Immediately after the information began to leak out of the Tivoli Gardens community of the executions by the Jamaican Security forces during the military operations there on May, 24, 2010 I began making posters to express my feelings about the brutality and massacre that the citizens spoke about. Two years after the incident there is still no official report published or any one held responsible for the massacre. The Government and the security forces are silent on the matter. The local media has since forgotten about the incident. Last December an article in the The New Yorker magazine written by Mattathais Schwartz uncovered the tragic stories of killings. A MUST READ for anyone who missed the story. The story is not going away and more people who believe in Justice need to speak out and demand Justice for the people of Tivoli.

For background on Tivoli 73 read my previous post and also Hung out to Dry…Who were the Tivoli 73? and 73 Civilians killed in Jamaica. Big deal! So what?

Justice for Keith Clarke?

A short note on the ruling in the Keith Clarke case which found 3 soldiers guilty of killing him along with two artworks depicting Clarke and the scene of his killing.

Poster of Keith Clarke by Michael Thompson
Artistic rendition of Keith Clarke’s murder by Hubert Neal Jr. June 2010

FINALLY there is some resolution of one of the horrific killings of citizens at the hands of agents of the state. The wanton murder of Keith Clarke, an accountant whose home in the hills of  Kingston was mistakenly believed by the security forces to be harbouring the fugitive Christopher Dudus Coke in May 2010, shook Jamaica. Now two years later the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn has ruled that three members of the Jamaica Defence Force are to be charged with the murder of businessman Keith Clarke. For details read this Gleaner article.

In my blogpost of May 27, 2010 I noted details of the attack on the Clarke home:

Well, the Gideon (local slang for Armageddon) continues. Last night it seemed as if things in Kingston had simmered down but this morning i checked into Twitter to hear that the armed forces were lobbing grenades and perhaps bombs at a house in E. Kirkland Heights, a very upscale neighbourhood in Red Hills, Kingston. “The template of violence in jamaica has changed ova d las week. Its now an insurgency with all the relevant weaponry” tweeted one of the people i follow. “I wanna see the police deny this one. Grenades an bombs are the new weapon of choice for the state now.”

While the DPP’s ruling may bring closure to the members of Keith Clarke’s family none is forthcoming for the Tivoli 73, the 73 (some say more) civilians killed during the military incursion into West Kingston on May 23-24, 2010. According to a news interview i heard with Terrence Williams, Commissioner of INDECOM, the body authorized to look into police misconduct, none is likely to be forthcoming either because unlike the Clarke home which was treated as a crime scene and immediately scoured for all evidence available, the environs of Tivoli Gardens were not designated a crime scene (because some claim, the civilian casualties were treated as war crimes), making it impossible two years later to identify the culprits in that massacre.

Of course as Mattathias Schwarz has indicated in his New Yorker article titled A Massacre in Jamaica the US government should be able to help by supplying video footage shot from the air on the day of the massacre by its US DEA Lockheed P-3 Orion plane.

But who knows when that will happen? It seems people in Tivoli Gardens may have to just hug up their losses and move on as far as the government is concerned. For an interesting interview with Mattathias Schwarz on the matter see here.

And in the meantime the DPP’s ruling raises more questions. Concerned citizens are asking how holding three low-ranking soldiers accountable for such a hgihly orchestrated military operation can be considered a credible outcome in this prolonged court case. The Daily Gleaner’s July 19 editorial, excerpted below, says it best:

Justice, in this case, is not only about holding to account the three soldiers who have been accused of firing the shots that killed Mr Clarke in his home more than two years ago. It includes, also, placing the spotlight on the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), so that it can view itself, hopefully with dispassion, and conclude whether it operates in a manner worthy of the public’s trust.

Mr Clarke, it is recalled, was not the victim of random circumstance. His death happened during what was supposed to have been an organised military operation.

…What is not clear is the command and control procedures that governed that operation and the rules of engagement to which the junior soldiers were subject.

The point is that Mr Clarke’s killing happened at a period of heightened tension in Jamaica. Coke was on the run and, in the face of the challenge from his gunmen and supporters, a state of emergency was in force in several parts of the island.

Against that background, we would be surprised if the search for Coke in Kirkland Heights would have been entrusted only to two JDF lance corporals and a private, without the previous knowledge of a significantly more senior commanding officer.

Should we be right, the obvious question that we expect would have been the subject of an internal review by the JDF, as well as part of INDECOM’s investigation, is what role did the commanding officer play in the sequence of events and whether he carried out his duty appropriately. In other words, are there matters for which he should be held accountable?

We believe that these are appropriate questions for which the public deserves answers, lest the cynics claim that juniors have been made fodder after an incompetent execution of an operation.

And so say all of us….

Hung out to Dry…Who were the Tivoli 73? A preview of Ebony G. Patterson’s ‘Of 72’

A report on Ebony G. Patterson’s ‘Of 72’ project commissioned by Small Axe: A Journal of Criticism.

…where are the songs about the 2010 Tivoli Massacre? An entire week of bloodletting yet nothing’s come out of Jamaica’s prolific music establishment? Nothing from our Reggae stalwarts or up-and-comers? The silence seems so opposite of our musical and cultural traditions that I’m surprised I haven’t noticed this before. This may be ironic but it’s times like these that I miss Buju the most. Mourn the death of Garnett Silk. And bemoan the disappearance of Sizzla. Please, if I’m missing the song or songs please let me know. If i’m missing the dub poetry let me know.

That was @Cucumberjuice on her blog wondering why our singers have been so tongue tied about the massacre of 73 civilians in Tivoli Gardens in the wake of their hunt for Dudus in May 2010. Well, it’s true that one is hard pressed to think of a song dedicated to the victims of that state-sponsored mini-Armageddon but on March 15, 2012, one day before Christopher Lloyd Coke or Dudus as he’s known was due to be sentenced, Jamaican artist Ebony G. Patterson held a preview of her stunning work ‘Of 72’ dedicated to the 72 men who died in that violent episode. The single female who was killed was also represented by a portrait though her presence wasn’t referenced in the title.

In recent years Ebony’s work has focused on the Jamaican male…in particular, males who shock out in blinged out, elaborate clothing, bleach their faces and bend the rigidly defined boundaries separating the genders in astonishing ways for a country thought to be as homophobic as its public rhetoric would have you believe. In fact a number of us were hard pressed to identify the single female subject among the 73 bandana flags decorated with beads, doilies, sequins and feathers. The one I thought most likely to be her was this one below but then again friends pointed out at least 6 or 7 others who could easily have passed for female as well.

Of 72 project by Ebony G. Patterson, March 15, 2012

The preview was mounted at University Close, for one evening only, and was a special, one of a kind event. The 73 flags were suspended with clothespins from a simulated clothesline. You couldn’t help think…were the 73 hung out to dry by the Jamaican government? It was a powerful, elegiac display notable not only for the poignant subject matter but also for the creativity, its ‘tun hand mek fashion’ quality, something other Jamaican artists could learn from. Alas very few of them were present. Michael Flyn Elliott and Marlon James were the exceptions. There were a lot of other events that evening so only a lucky few made it. I asked Damien King, head of the Economics Department at the University of the West Indies, who strolled by to take a dekko, for his reactions. Here’s what he had to say:

The first reaction is that by sort of replicating the number of people that died it has an impact–you realize right away it’s PLENTY people. you know when you see the news and people get killed everyday its very easy to become desensitized to it but when you see 73 different images and you see 73 different ways of treating them you realize the number of them and that each one is individual. Each one is treated differently so it tells you that these are individuals, each of these 73 people is a person with his own view, his own outlook, his own ideas, his own personality, his own history and his own life. It’s not 73 lemmings. The other thing that also occurs to me because half of the faces are covered is the sense that when young people die you don’t know what you’ve lost, you don’t know the potential.”

Damien could have been reading Ebony’s mind. Early last year in an interview I did with her on my radio show, The Silo, Ebony talked about this project. It was then in its incipient stages and was called Of 73. The project, Ebony told me, references

the loss of the identity of these 73 people who have died. The larger and even more important question which has yet to be answered is who are these people? We are yet to have faces, we are yet to have names. We still don’t know who these people are. I also think its very interesting that of the 73 people who were killed only one was a woman. 72 were male. That to me is quite startling. …and i think that it’s all well and good that we’re investigating things but the question is WHAT are we really investigating, who are these people and nobody is asking or pressuring for these names to be divulged. And i think  as long as the identities of these people remain masked its going to be quite easy for us to just carry on…you know continue–It’s the least I can do as a concerned citizen, to kind of etch this episode into history, so that these people are not forgotten. Because I think that its very unfortunate that a year later we still do not have the names of the 73 people who were killed.

Ebony G. Patterson’s ‘Of 72’ project was commissioned by Small Axe: A Caribbean Platform for Criticism and will be carried in a forthcoming issue of the journal.