Fri | Feb 23, 2018

The anatomy of a Jamaican roadblock

Published:Monday | February 1, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Jamaicans are known to excel in many things, including roadblocks.

Jamaicans are known for excelling in everything from academics to sports.

But if there was ever one thing even the ordinary Jamaican can do well, it's blocking the road in protest. I won't say we're the 'block-road capital' of the world, but we certainly know how to stop the flow of vehicular traffic. Admittedly, there are times when we go overboard, but such is life.

Now there are certain key ingredients needed for a successful roadblock. First of all, there has to be a bone of contention. The type of offending issue is sometimes territorial. For example, if it's Kingston's inner cities, it usually has to do with a questionable killing by the security forces. If it's a deep rural area, aka bush, then it probably has to do with bad roads, an increase in crime, or a desperate plea for electricity or water. Lately, we've been seeing more of the protests about people being unhappy with their political party's candidate selection. But that's another matter.

Now, an essential part of any roadblock is the material used. There are some mainstays of the Jamaican roadblock. Tyres are usually a good bet, along with large, old appliances like refrigerators and stoves. In the rural areas, people have been known to utilise a few trees and shrubs, while occasionally, depending on the community, you'll even see the odd shell of a motor vehicle whose driving days are long gone. I've always wondered if these residents have these old things lying around specifically for roadblocks. Talk about being prepared.

And, of course, there are the always reliable big stones. Everybody has those. Now having sourced the material, ensure that pretty much all corners of the selected thoroughfare are blocked. Depending on how militant you are, you should decide that only emergency vehicles (ambulance etc) and the 'schoolers' can pass. But other than that, traffic usually comes to an acrimonious halt.


Of course, the blockage must be accompanied by placards that have been terribly written, that is, bad English, with even more terrible spelling. Justice has to be spelt a million different ways, except the correct way. At some point, somebody has to hold their placard upside down, giving an indication that it was written by somebody other than the holder. And, depending on their availability, try and get a few sorrowful-looking children. They help to make the mood even more sombre.

And, of course, let's not forget that the first non-protester on the scene is the caretaker, aka the individual who is about to run against the sitting member of parliament or parish council representative in the next election. Gotta get that mileage any way you can I suppose. But no self-respecting protest can do without them. And they know this. More than likely, they won't be winning the seat anyway (seriously how many swing seats do we have at any given time?) so let them get their 15 minutes in the sun. Literally.

There you have it, the perfect roadblock. Now go forth and protest (but watch out fi police). Later.

• Block road wid me at