Hope for change - More than 3,000 come together to show solidarity at JC's peaceful protest against attacks on children
More than 3,000 people flocked Jamaica College (JC) in St Andrew yesterday to give support to a silent protest against attacks on the nation's youth, in the wake of last week's murder of 14-year-old student Nicholas Francis.
Francis was stabbed in the chest during a robbery attempt on a Toyota Coaster bus not far from the school on Old Hope Road.
Parents, students, teachers, ministers of government, members of the Opposition and others turned out in solidarity with JC, many bearing placards depicting various messages denouncing violence against children.
At least two busloads of students from Kingston College (KC) were transported to JC to participate in the protest.
Almost the entire Mona High School population (approximately 1,400 students) walked down to JC from Mona.
Ardenne High School students were also present.
While everyone else stretched from the school gate to Ravinia during the protest, which lasted for an hour, JC students lined the inside of the perimeter fencing, facing Old Hope Road.
Campion College, St Andrew High School and Sts Peter and Paul Preparatory School participated from a distance.
The students at those schools lined up in their numbers with placards on sidewalks outside their institutions.
Jamaica College Parent-Teacher Association President Errol Holmes told The Gleaner that other institutions across the island showed their support by putting on demonstrations of their own to coincide with what was going on at JC.
"We understand that there were other schools across the country, that identified with us. I know that Campion College, while they did not physically come to Jamaica College, they had their own peaceful demonstration in black, outside their school compound. [There] were other schools across the country, but we are still to get the confirmation," Holmes told The Gleaner.
Holmes said the whole idea was to ensure that something meaningful comes from Nicholas' death. It was also to demonstrate to the children of Jamaica that they are not alone.
"The real issue is, Nicholas Francis must not die in vain. His death is a galvanising point to make sure that no other child in school in this country should die from this kind of scourge. The first thing was a return to civil society in the eyes of our students, for them to know that Jamaica cares and that parents and civic leaders will stand up," he said.
Anger is still fresh among many parents, some of whom are uncertain whether or not they will allow their children to continue taking public transport.
Daine Fraser, parent of a KC student, made the trip to JC because she is adamant that the "foolishness" must end.
"I have a 14-year-old that goes to KC, and it pains a lot. What happened should not have happened. The foolishness has to stop," she stressed.
Leslie Grant, a JC parent, was hopeful that the protest would spur change.
"I am hopeful it will make a change. We have to do something, because the crime cannot continue, [especially] seeing that our students are now in jeopardy," Grant told The Gleaner.
Sonia Nichols, who started to cry while she spoke to The Gleaner, stated that the reality of the situation was painful to her.
"My son takes the bus. My son is in third form. He knows Nicholas. I am so angry, it's tearing me apart," she said.
Nichole Grant Brown told The Gleaner that she had been contemplating letting her son take the bus home in the evenings. She said he was no longer interested in doing so as a result of the incident.
"No (he doesn't take the bus). I was actually preparing him to take the bus, but he doesn't want to take the bus anymore," she said.