Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Pepper spray on Skyline, gun on West King’s House Road - two Jamaicas

Published:Thursday | April 27, 2017 | 4:00 AM
Carnival revellers on the streets of Kingston, recently.
A scene from Life's Good first Anniversary party at the Terrace, Southdale Plaza, Half-Way-Tree, St Andrew recently.
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Minister of Culture, Entertainment, Gender and Sport, Olivia Grange's statement about Jamaica's class differences after Sunday's closing down of the weekly Dub Club event on Skyline Drive, St Andrew, by the police, goes even deeper than it initially appears.

For while Grange has said that shutting down the event "... on a day when Carnival, a quite different cultural event, was taking place... sends the wrong message that there are 'two Jamaicas'" is correct, there are nuances and another carnival incident which make the social divide even more striking.

And it is the reaction to and of the police which makes the situation even more stark and takes it beyond the standard 'soca vs dancehall/reggae' preference or treatment argument.

And let us make it clear, that Dub Club is very much an uptown event in its location and, from what I have observed on a couple occasions, a large proportion of its patronage. However, by the nature of its Jamaican popular music focus and the overtly Rastafari demeanour of selector Gabre Selassie, it is open to a measure of the treatment which is otherwise inconsistently levelled at Jamaican popular music events staged or populated by the lower socio-economic classes.

So being located uptown and having a strong middle and upper class clientele, did not prevent the reggae sound system event from being visited by the police. And it must also be made clear that the lawmen were right to respond if there were complaints about noise.

However, the reaction of the Dub Club patrons, who reportedly became boisterous to the extent that the police used pepper spray (a very mild response, by Jamaican standards), also says something about the two Jamaicas. Because in the other Jamaica of reggae and dancehall events - which I have attended, when the police arrive and the music is turned off, persons are upset, but they know well enough not to confront the cops. To do so would open up the distinct possibility of a reaction that would make the force level of pepper spray look like child's play.

 

Response

 

From what I have gleaned about the crowd's reaction at Dub Club on Sunday night, it was the response of those who do not expect that they would be subject to the force of the law and, further, do not understand what the police are capable of. It was an uptown reaction.

In that regard, they are not unlike the young man seen with a firearm in hand outside a soca event in a widely circulated video. Now, this is uptown in full effect and I firmly believe that when people are drunk (if that was the case, a possibility raised in this newspaper on Monday), very angry or insane, the mask of social restrictions slips.

But when the police came, Zachary Reid was not shot, but disarmed. Now, that is a word I do not hear often as the police carry out the very difficult job of keeping a veneer of social stability in a country where illegal firearms and licensed firearms in the hands of the irresponsible are common. I am much more accustomed to "the man opened fire, the fire was returned", with the occasional "nearby bushes".

Not on Carnival night in the city, though, when the privileged in Jamaica's society and those who temporarily access that privilege by association are allowed freedoms of skin and security which the majority will never access en masse. And that is really an example of the two Jamaicas on soca night.

PS: What about the gunshots that affected Heineken Rio on Waterloo Road? A duppy do de shooting?

melville.cooke@gleanerjm.com