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Stabroek News

Colourful West Kingston past
published: Sunday | January 9, 2005


In this photograph, Cladius Massop (second from left) hugs a Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) supporter from Tivoli Gardens in West Kingston. -File photo

Howard Campbell, Gleaner Writer

OF THE colourful enforcers who have roamed West Kingston since the 1940s, Claudius 'Claudie' Massop is arguably the best known. He was a graduate of the constituency's school of hard knocks and, according to popular lore, was not afraid to dish out punishment to those who stepped out of line.

Massop, 21-year-old Lloyd Fraser and 25-year-old Trevor Tinson were killed by 11 policemen on the evening of February 4, 1979, at the corner of Industrial Terrace and Marcus Garvey Drive. They were returning from a football match in Spanish Town.

Two other men who were travelling in the taxi with Massop, Fraser and Tinson, escaped.

The policemen, who were charged with three counts of murder, were eventually cleared after a three-week trial in the St. Thomas Circuit Court in December 1982.

In their defence, they said Massop and his accomplices were armed and had opened fire on them. Samuel Evans, the taxi driver, gave a different story.

In an interview with The Gleaner at the time of the incident, he said the men were unarmed and that the policemen had blocked his vehicle before searching them, then killed all in cold blood.

Massop, 31 at the time of his death, was reportedly shot 40 times. It was a bloody end to a life that had been scarred by violence. Throughout the 1970s, Massop had been charged several times by police for murder, illegal possession of firearm and shooting. He was also detained in the 1976 State of Emergency.

'PERSONABLE, APPROACHABLE'

According to musicologist and social worker, Bunny Goodison, who knew Massop from his days at All Saints Primary school, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) supporter was anything but the typical heavy man.

"As far as perception in the streets, he was a feared person but 'Jack' was never in your face. He was very personable and approachable, and always dressed conservatively clean," Goodison told The Sunday Gleaner.

Goodison says he got to know Massop intimately in January 1978 when influential figures in West Kingston approached him to help end years of political fighting between gangs in Tivoli Gardens and Matthews Lane, a People's National Party (PNP) stronghold led at the time by Aston 'Bucky' Marshall.

According to Goodison, he met with both men separately and found them receptive to a truce.

Massop, he remembers, played a key role in the process by attending meetings in trouble spots where JLP and PNP supporters were at war including Dunkirk and Southside, and Rema and Arnett Gardens.

"The last of the meetings took place at the Sheraton Hotel (now the Hilton Kingston Hotel), where I took him to meet D. K. Duncan (the then PNP's general secretary), Hugh Small (Cabinet member), Howard Aris (advisor to Prime Minister Michael Manley) and Tony Welsh (Arnett Gardens area leader)," Goodison recalled. "I remember before we left the hotel there was a motorcade leaving for Tivoli Gardens because people heard about the peace."

The week of peace meetings culminated in an emotional street dance throughout West Kingston.

Massop would also be involved in organising the One Love Peace Concert which took place at the National Stadium in April that year, featuring Bob Marley as headliner. It was there that the reggae superstar brought The People's National Party's Manley and JLP leader Edward Seaga on stage for a symbolic expression of peace in what has become one of the 1970s most memorable scenes.

A reported 15,000 persons attended Massop's funeral in West Kingston. Within one year of his death, on March 8, 'Bucky' Marshall was murdered in a New York City nightclub.

A LOOK AT PERSONALITIES

During his 43 years as Member of Parliament for West Kingston, Edward Seaga has encountered countless characters, some with whom he formed lasting friendships, others who became and remain staunch rivals. Last week, the JLP leader gave his take on some of these personalities:

John Maxwell (journalist who ran against Seaga for the PNP in the 1972 general elections, and one of his biggest critics): "John is an excellent writer, it would be surprising to know that I read his columns regularly. You can't write well unless you think clearly. He has his points of view many of which I agree with especially the environmental side. But on the political side, we differ. He was just not cut out to be a politician."

Dudley Thompson (ran against Seaga in West Kingston in the 1962 and 1967 general elections): "Has become one of my very good friends. In the days when things were hot Dudley was made a Q.C. in the middle of the campaign and adopted the name Burning Spear in homage to Jomo Kenyatta, which should have gone down well in West Kingston.

But no matter how you present yourself if you can't match my intensity in developing projects and walking with the people, you can't match me. So with Dudley it wasn't possible" (for him to win in West Kingston).

Desmond McKenzie (protégé and Kingston's Mayor): "One of the youngsters who was involved with me in the early days at Chocomo Lawn. He grew up with a background of politics because he grew up around me. Eventually, he took over duties on the platform, singing political choruses and then he started to address the crowd.

He has really mastered politics not only as a process by which you provide governance but touching base with people."

Joe Higgs (half of singing duo Higgs and Wilson whom Seaga produced): "I didn't have too much time with Joe Higgs because it was at the point where having produced the record (Manny Oh by himself and Roy Wilson), I was beginning to move into politics. Instead of consolidating that game, I moved out of that world."

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