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Tivoli Gardens flashback

Published:Saturday | May 22, 2010 | 12:00 AM

A HUGE black cross at the corner of Darling Street and Spanish Town Road in west Kingston bears testimony to two unforgettable deadly events in the recent history of Tivoli Gardens.

'Lest We Forget', as the monument is called, has engraved on it the names of the 31 persons killed in clashes with security forces during operations in that section of the city.

Twenty-five of those residents, one soldier and a policeman were killed in 2001 after the police and the defence force entered the community in search of guns and wanted men. The stand-off lasted three days, from July 7-10, and has been regarded as the darkest spot in the history of western Kingston.

The other four residents were killed during a similar operation in Tivoli Gardens from May 7-9, 1997.

One year after the infamous 2001 shootings, Edward Seaga, then member of parliament, said the events scared the people of west Kingston.

difficult to forget

"It will be difficult for the people to forget or forgive the planner and the executioner," Seaga said.

In the 2001 shooting, five lawmen and 38 civilians were shot and injured during the mayhem, while eight vehicles belonging to the security forces were destroyed or damaged, including three from the Jamaica Defence Force fleet.

Now, nearly nine years after those horrifying three days of hell, the level of mistrust that Tivoli Gardens residents have for the police remains strong.

Minister of National Security Dwight Nelson has promised that the security forces will be extremely careful in how they execute their job throughout the Corporate Area and beyond.

"I can assure the nation that in the present situation, the security forces will be acting with the highest degree of professionalism in carrying out their responsibilities," Nelson told The Gleaner.

Nelson chose his words carefully, asserting that the police and soldiers would be doing their jobs professionally in all spheres of their duty.