Jamaica: Afraid to go to school – Mountain View violence leaves children terrified

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The Jamaican Observer is reporting that following weeks of ongoing violence between warring factions in the Mountain View area of Kingston which have left 10 people dead so far, the police have pledged to maintain a strong presence in the area to allow students to return to school with some sense of security this week.

“We don’t have the resources to blanket Mountain View with police and soldiers, but tomorrow morning school reopens and we will put some resources on Mountain View Avenue,” head of the Kingston Eastern Police Division Superintendent Victor Hamilton pledged at a peaceful community protest yesterday.

The event, organised by Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) activist Stephen McCubbin against the ongoing violence, was held at Jacques Road Community Centre, where several residents, mostly females, gathered to voice their fears and discontent.

One frustrated female resident declared: “Mi best friend lose har husband because of this; 11 shot, and him don’t even know what gun look like. Somebody coulda step in from before; it reach too far. It cause a big, innocent man him life. Dem going to wait ’til babies start dead.”

“Right now, I have to send away my kids; they didn’t want to be here, they are terrified, they are scared to go to school. How yuh think I feel to be home alone. I sure know nuff parents not sending out their children to school, especially the boys. From Friday night I don’t sleep,” she said.

Superintendent Hamilton used the opportunity to chastise the women present while urging them to give up the gangsters known to them.

“I’m disappointed with the gathering, because there are so many more persons on the outside and only the women are in here… that tells me that you, the women, have power,” Hamilton said.

“I am not convinced that all the gangsters within Mountain View are imported; they are from Backbush and Jacques Road and Goodwich Road. They remain in the communities because persons allow them, and gangsters can’t fight on hungry belly. It is the women who feed them, the gangsters must be your sons, your neighbours, your neighbours’ sons.

He further implied that the situation was a tit for tat, pointing out that five of the 10 people who died were from the Jacques Road area, while the other five were from Goodwich.

He said residents, though angry, have been tightlipped and offered no help to the police.

“Persons have not just been killed in Mountain View; persons from Mountain View have been killed in New Kingston and Cross Roads, but we have not been able to get anybody coming forward to say ‘I witnessed this’. I didn’t get one call,” Hamilton said.

“We cannot take cases to court without witness statements… by not speaking out you are subjecting your children to a life of poverty and death,” he said.

Yesterday, at 4:41 pm, only a handful of people were at the location selected for the peaceful protest which was slated to begin at 5:00 pm. As the evening wore on the numbers increased, but remained dominantly female.

As it grew dark the Jamaica Observer spotted several males peering into the community centre from the safety of the night shadows.

McCubbin told the Observer that he had called the meeting following two shootings over the weekend.

“There were some killings that took place yesterday and the day before. A taxi man who was shot in Rollington Town, he’s an elderly man. The residents are angry and frustrated. The aim right now is for residents to be able to send their kids to school. Everybody is scared, nobody wants to send their children to school Monday morning. This is much better than blocking the road or a retaliation,” he said.

According to McCubbin, the residents didn’t care about getting better roads or social amenities as much as they wanted peace.

“We don’t care who comes up with the solutions. The people just want to stop dead, that’s it. Nobody don’t want to know about road or gully or whatever, dem want to know when dem a go stop dead,” he said.

In the meantime, Fayval Williams, Jamaica Labour Party Member of Parliament for the St Andrew Eastern constituency from which some of the warring factions hail, said “there is a lot of fear” as the individuals involved fought for control.

Williams, in urging the police to be out tomorrow as the children return to school, noted that at least two shootings have taken place in the vicinity of Excelsior High School on Mountain View Avenue.

“I know persons who are afraid to go to work. I know persons who have left Jamaica because of the violence,” she said while urging residents to give information to the security forces through the different avenues provided that protect their identity.

Williams said they cannot allow a return to the “bad old days” when people could not use Mountain View Avenue to go to the airport.

Yesterday, angry residents charged that the police were selective in their duties.

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