Sat | Jul 4, 2020

Tivoli incursion: 10 years on | Footballer still grappling with 2010 trauma

Published:Friday | May 29, 2020 | 12:33 AMAndre Williams/Staff Reporter
A woman and child look out from a doorway in Tivoli Gardens on May 27, 2010. The wall above was riddled with bullet holes during clashes between the security forces and armed rebels.
A woman and child look out from a doorway in Tivoli Gardens on May 27, 2010. The wall above was riddled with bullet holes during clashes between the security forces and armed rebels.

Youth footballer Suen Gregory, who has represented Jamaica at the national Under-14, -15, and -17 levels, said she has been scarred by the events she witnessed as a child during the Tivoli Gardens incursion of May 2010.

The now-19-year-old Tivoli Gardens resident told The Gleaner that she has been harbouring bitterness after witnessing her father being assaulted by the security forces in the operation to arrest drug kingpin Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke when she was just nine years old.

“Talk ‘bout how dem beat mi father. If you go in a the bathroom now, a bare shot hole in a the ceiling. All now nuh hair can’t grow in a him head middle,” she said of the daily reminders of the tragic encounter.

“Di way dem deal wid my father, mi traumatised ‘cause me never yet see my father cry, and dem a beat him in front of me. Up to now, mi still nuh like police and soldier just because of that.”

Gregory, a former Denham Town High standout, has just completed her secondary education and is now looking to focus on her budding sports career. However, she says, the painful memories still linger.

“Mi never forget that day,” she added. “All mi father a show dem him ID that he is a construction worker, dem still a beat him.”

Gregory said that for reasons unknown to her, her father missed out on the opportunity to be compensated for the alleged abuse by the State.

“To me, it (the money) still nah go ease the pain because a whole heap a innocent youth dead ... . Most a dem, dem carry a May Pen Cemetery and burn dem. Mi a did nine, and mi a tell yuh dat. Those visions can’t come out my head,” she said.

STILL PROFESSIONAL

Gregory admitted, however, that during the operation, some of the cops maintained their professionalism.

“Some a di police dem did nice, but the others, some a dem tek all the likkle youth dem and a ask dem if dem see this and see that,” Gregory said. “You can’t ask pickney dem things deh mek dem tell lie on demself.”

Another young woman, who requested anonymity, was celebrating her 19th birthday during the Tivoli incursion and told The Gleaner it was the worst birthday ever.

That, however, did not stop her from signing up for recruitment to the Jamaica Defence Force, where she is now a reserve.

“It was Sunday evening, the place was very dark and tense with few persons on the road. You only saw like gas cylinder and sand bags,” she said of efforts to fortify the area and keep out the security forces. “Persons were saying, who can leave, leave, but I wasn’t going to leave ... . Later, you only heard shot whistling through the trees and it never stopped.”

She said that because of stigma, she has had to withhold information on her place of abode from her friends in college and throughout her young adult life.

Another resident, who told The Gleaner that she witnessed the onslaught as a teen, said she now tries to show her child a different life as she grows up in the tough inner-city space. She said that despite criticism – “them say you a gwaan like your pickney better than fi dem” – she is determined to steer her child to a better life.

andre.williams@gleanerjm.com