Protests Planned After Death By Jamaican Security Forces
Susan Bogle, a mentally ill woman, was shot in her home during a police and military operation in August Town, an eastern suburb of Kingston. Her death has sparked protests and reignited a debate about the treatment of residents in Jamaica’s poorest inner-city communities.
The authorities reportedly carried out the operation to capture a criminal.
An investigation is currently underway to identify who was responsible for the shooting. Four officers have been taken off active duty in connection with the incident. Despite this, over 25,000 people have signed a petition demanding justice for Susan Bogle, and protests are scheduled for this weekend.
Susan Bogle’s son, Omari Stephens, has been vocal in calling attention to the injustices faced by Jamaicans living in the most deprived neighbourhoods of the tourist island, the second poorest country in the Caribbean after Haiti. Stephens described his mother as a “tiny, fragile” and “humble” woman who could never have posed a threat to officers. However, he said that the core issue for him and what is most important is that the Jamaica Defense Force (JDF) member who carried out such a cruel act is charged and faces the full force of the justice system. He wants to ensure that no other family has to suffer the loss and pain that his family is going through.
Jamaica has one of the highest murder rates in the world and a long and bloody history of clashes between security forces and citizens. One of the most notable conflicts was in 2010 when security forces killed at least 73 citizens and wounded 35 people during an operation to extradite accused drug kingpin Christopher “Dudus” Coke in the Tivoli Gardens slum in Kingston.
According to an Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) report, Jamaican security forces killed 3,573 citizens between 2000 and 2019. Parliament created INDECOM in 2010, partly in response to the Tivoli assault and to monitor reports of abuse by security forces. The initiative appears to have had some success, with the number of deaths declining from a high of 277 fatal shootings in 2010 to a low of 86 last year.
Targeting of poor communities
Amnesty International said police shootings were generally attributed to a tough-on-crime approach but often disproportionately target poor communities where victims have little recourse. Young men and teenagers from inner-city, disenfranchised neighbourhoods accounted for the vast majority of victims of unlawful killings by the police.
Rodje Malcolm, executive director of human rights and social justice organization Jamaicans For Justice, said the protests emerging globally following the death of an unarmed black man in police custody in Minneapolis were driving Jamaicans to action. Malcolm said, “so many people are outraged because it reminds us of the countless cases of Jamaicans either killed or abused by security forces in communities across the island.” One place to start is by keeping the promise to implement mandatory body cameras across the security forces. Too many lives have been lost.”
Human rights activist Lloyd D’aguilar said mass protests were the only way to enact any real change in Jamaica, where about 19% of the 2.9 million population live in poverty, according to the World Bank, and crime and violence remain high. “Police and state extrajudicial killings are far more serious in Jamaica than in the United States,” he said. “The only difference is that we have yet to develop that kind of mass protest which is likely to be the only way that the state will treat this matter seriously.”
Jezeel Martin, a friend of Stephens, started the petition calling for justice after Bogle’s death struck a personal chord. A soldier also murdered Martin’s brother, and she understands the pain and trauma that Bogle’s family is going through. However, she believes that the only way to achieve justice and accountability for these atrocities is through mass protests and sustained pressure on the government and law enforcement.
Susan Bogle’s death highlights the more significant systemic issue affecting Jamaicans. The fight for justice and accountability continues, and the protests and demonstrations are not just about one woman’s tragic death. Still, they are about a more significant systemic issue affecting thousands of Jamaicans daily.
The fight for justice and equality must continue after Susan Bogle’s death; the need for change in Jamaica is more apparent than ever. The government and law enforcement must take immediate action to address the issues faced by the country’s poorest communities and work towards building trust and accountability with these communities.
The global protests against racial inequality and police brutality have shown that people are no longer willing to accept the status quo and are demanding change. Jamaicans are joining this global movement and are standing up for their rights and the rights of their fellow citizens. They want to live in a country where they are safe, respected, and treated with dignity and justice.
It’s time for the government and law enforcement to listen to the voices of the people and take action to address these issues once and for all. Until then, the fight for justice and equality will continue.