Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
A year after Independence and two years before Jamaica marked its 50th anniversary, the state and citizens were embroiled in high-profile incidents of conflict. In 1963, there was what became known as the Coral Gardens Incident, the name locating the point of origin of widespread repression of Rastafari. And in 2010, there was the euphemistically named Tivoli incursion, in which more than 70 citizens were killed officially - a figure hotly contested as being way too low in some quarters.
Today, a march and motorcade from downtown Kingston to Half-Way Tree will literally connect the two events in a protest. However, poet and broadcaster Mutabaruka emphasised the connection in the treatment of Jamaican citizens by the state, although the two happened 47 years apart.
All are invited to participate.
"The people reach the stage where the state a do what dem used to do to Rastafari to dem. Dem used to say it a happen to Rasta, it nah happen to me," Mutabaruka said. He pointed out that 50 years ago, in the brutality stemming from Coral Gardens, "the state influence the people to fight against Rasta, so is not only the state, but the people".
Now, he said, "it is not just the Rasta in problem", for there is not only the Tivoli incursion but also the high level of police killings in day-to-day activities.
The march starts at Ward Theatre, downtown Kingston, at noon, with the marchers going around Parade once before going up to the corner of Duke and Sutton streets for a half-hour silent protest. From there, they go to National Heroes Park and then there will be a motorcade along Marescaux Road, Half-Way Tree Road, on to Balmoral Avenue, Eastwood Park Road and then South Odeon Ave to Mandela Park.
At the park, there will be various speakers on the issues, Mutabaruka broadcasting live on IRIE FM with his Stepping Razor programme. IRIE FM, the Rastafari Millennium Council and the Coral Gardens Committee head are major forces in organising the protest, with ROOTS FM and NewsTalk slated to participate.
"We trying to make it a unification of radio stations, so the media do something to raise the consciousness of the people," Mutabaruka said.
Mutabaruka pointed to the high rate of police killings and said, "Is something that is a problem to Jamaica right now, the excessive killing by the police, to know Rastafari went through it, from Pinnacle to Coral Gardens to other atrocities. We coming to that understanding through experience. Everybody have to learn. It reach the stage where Rasts say we did tell you."
There will not be a concert element at Mandela Park. "You no have no music whe talk 'gainst police and Babylon like reggae. Is just after the music, what is there? Sometimes the artiste not even turn up," Mutabaruka said. "We make it clear is not a reggae concert. It is about sharing knowledge. It is about enlightening the people to what is happening right in front of them face," he said.
And today's protest is intended to be the genesis of a process. "This is just the start of something. In numbers there is strength. The more people get together, the more highlight it will get, it will go international. People will realise is a serious thing happening in Jamaica and force the authorities to do something," Mutabaruka said.
Part of those concrete results is redress for those victmised in the Coral Gardens incident. "They have to acknowledge especially the atrocity to Rastafari 50 years ago and pay some form of compensation to the victims," he said.
The annual Coral Gardens commemoration will take place in Montego Bay this weekend, Mutabaruka pointing to the potential impact of the extension that is today's protest. "We feel say the visibility of it in Kingston is more powerful than in MoBay. With the radio station behind it it is strong out there," Mutabaruka said.