Sat | Nov 18, 2017

Mario Deane's mom standing up for justice

Published:Friday | August 4, 2017 | 12:00 AMChristopher Thomas
Mercia Fraser (right), the mother of Mario Deane, holds a banner depicting her son, with help from two supporters, at Sam Sharpe Square in Montego Bay, St James, yesterday. Deane died three years ago from injuries sustained while in custody at the Barnett Street police lock-up.

WESTERN BUREAU:

While the nation is celebrating Emancipation and Independence, Mercia Fraser, the mother of Mario Deane - who died from a brutal beating he sustained while in police custody three years ago - is on another mission: a relentless bid to secure justice for her son.

Standing in Sam Sharpe Square in Montego Bay, St James, yesterday on the third anniversary of the day her son was beaten at the Barnett Street Police Station on August 3, 2014, the resolute Fraser, who was staging a personal protest, said that standing up for one's rights was at the heart of Jamaica's emancipation from slavery and subsequent independence.

"We are celebrating Emancipation and Independence, and in the midst of it, this young man got a beating three years ago. It only takes a few people to stand and say this is injustice, but we don't remember we could still be under slavery if somebody didn't stand up," said Fraser.

"I have made my statement to fight for what is right. It is these things that those men fought for, including Marcus Garvey and Paul Bogle, and we are in the period of freedom."

Fraser also took the opportunity to call for a transforming of the police force into an organisation that Jamaicans can trust.

"The police need to be cleaned up because nobody will go to the police to tell them anything they see going wrong when they know the police force isn't clean and that same force is working against us. The police need to work in accordance with the law, and we the citizens will work with them," Fraser said.

Mario Deane, who was 31 years old at the time of his death, was arrested for possession of a ganja spliff while he was on his way to his construction job. He was taken to the Barnett Street police lock-up, where he was refused bail under questionable circumstances. Shortly afterwards, he was beaten while in custody and later died from his injuries.

His death attracted major local and international attention and was partly responsible for the debate that led to the decriminalisation of ganja by the Jamaican Parliament.