BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor — special assignment email@example.com
IT should have been the usual symbolic re-enactment of the journey National Hero Paul Bogle took from Stony Gut to Morant Bay during the 1865 rebellion, but those who journeyed halfway across the island to St Thomas last Thursday left feeling cheated.
More than halfway through the four-and-a-half mile trek, police halted the group of men, women and children in their tracks as they did not have the necessary permit to engage in a public gathering.
Tempers flared and persons loudly voiced their disappointment at not being able to honour their ancestor in this way, the first time in years, but the police was unrelenting as they maintained that the safety of the citizens would override tradition. However, what was shaping up to be a confrontation was quickly defused by two senior police personnel, under the watchful eyes of a number of armed cops.
Leading the march was Constantine Bogle, who claims to be the great-great-grandson of the national hero and an elected councillor of the Yallahs Division. He had organised the all-night vigil in Stony Gut the night before, after which the group headed out in single file towards Morant Bay. They were joined by more persons as they got closer to the final destination in the town square where Bogle's statue was once mounted.
"We were travelling in single file on one side of the road and the traffic was flowing freely and the police come and disrupt the peace," complained one member of the group, who added that the event was not a demonstration, but a celebratory march.
Daisy Blackwood, who has been participating in the march for the last six years, said she left her home in Discovery Bay, St Ann, for the occasion and felt cheated, as for the first time she could not accomplish that goal.
"I came all the way here to show appreciation for the forefathers and I don't understand why we can't complete the journey," she said.
Blackwood added: "We were not singing or shouting, but just doing a silent march walking with sticks, not stone, because we are patriotic Jamaicans."
Claude Sinclair of the Marcus Garvey Collaboration Committee was equally disappointed that such a historic and important event to Jamaicans was forced to end as abruptly as it did.
"This is something we look forward to, and I feel that this was a slap in the face to the respect of National Hero Paul Bogle," he said.
"Are you telling us that we can't exercise our civil right to walk? This was not a protest or a demonstration, but a simple walk," he said further.
Sinclair, who had journeyed from Kingston to St Thomas for the event asked tongue-in-cheek if the late hero had received a permit when he walked from Stony Gut to Morant Bay.
"Why did they send that whole van load of armed police to come to ensure we didn't march when all we would have needed is just two police to go with us? That is what I call hypocrisy," he said.
Meanwhile, Bogle told the group that they had the option of being transported back to Stony Gut as the significance would be lost if they were to be taken by bus to the Morant Bay Square.
"It is just an unfortunate situation because it is not like we can do it next month because it would have lost its historic significance," he said.
Commander V. Thomas in charge of the Island Special Constabulary Force in St Thomas, explained the police's action to the Jamaica Observer North East.
"For a march of this magnitude the police should have received a request in writing and then we would have put things in place to ensure their safety," she said, explaining that the police have always assisted with previous marches.
The security issue was made more serious by the fact that Governor General Sir Patrick Allen was visiting Paul Bogle Junior High School and as such the police would not have allowed the group to enter the area where he was.
Thomas, in an earlier address to the group, informed them that the police would have been able to accompany them, had permission been sought.
"All of us love Paul Bogle. I too would love to march, but things will have to be done orderly, and Bogle was a man who stood for order," Thomas said.
But words failed to appease at least one man who urged the crowd not to accept that argument and to insist on continuing with the march.
"If dem want heng me dung deh dem can heng me, because me ah gu dung deh," he shouted as he stood on an embankment addressing the people below.
For a moment the crowd was divided between disobeying the instructions of the police and continuing with the march. In the end, the group was transported back to Stony Gut.
Meanwhile, marchers insisted that the march was not only to re-enact Bogle's journey but also to bring awareness to an array of other issues.
According to Blackwood, her involvement was to bring awareness to the need for more to be known about National Hero George William Gordon.
"We deh ya fi 'Daddy Bogle', but we want to know why they not celebrating both of their lives together because they worked together and were killed hours apart and so we need to celebrate their life and death together as well," she said.
Some persons said they were marching for Marcus Garvey's criminal record to be expunged, while others wanted Bogle's statue to be mounted in Stony Gut instead of Morant Bay.
"We want the statue to come back home, because that is where it come from, and having it there mean that tourist will come to the area that is in utter darkness," said Stony Gut resident Juliet deCambre.
Sinclair said the march was also being used to draw attention to a number of issues affecting the parish and the wider country.
"We are also staging this peaceful march because we are losing children and women to rape and murder and the lawlessness which has taken over," he said.