Organiser disappointed with turnout for march against violence

BY RACQUEL PORTER Observer staff reporter porterr@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

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SHERELL Smith-Walker was left a disappointed woman yesterday.

It was International Women’s Day and Smith-Walker was upbeat earlier in the day, expecting a big turnout for a planned march to protest violence against women.


But Smith-Walker, coordinator for St Andrew leg of Jamaica Against Violence/Mad House Charity, found it hard to hide her disappointment when she saw the small group which turned up to protest the rising incidence of violence against women.


The group marched from Mandela Park to Emancipation Park in observance of International Women’s Day.


"…It is sad. Jamaicans don’t believe in this [as] they only talk because their neighbour’s child got raped. It is like a nine-day wonder and that is crazy. We need to move away from that," Smith-Walker said.


She told the Jamaica Observer that she had been expecting a massive turnout, given the population density of the Corporate Area. "It could have been way more supported; this is Kingston. Persons could come out, even spend an hour, a half-an-hour, spend a minute, just come," she said.


Smith-Walker, however, expressed gratitude to the participants in the march, including one woman who flew in from New York to support the initiative.


Some Burger King staff members participated in the march in remembrance of their co-worker 23-year-old Nile Brown and Green Pond High School student, 15-year-old Shineka Gray.


Brown’s decomposing body was found in a barrel at Ramble District, St Thomas on February 5, while Gray’s decomposing body was found on Riverside Drive in Granville, St James, days after she went missing.


Twenty-three-year-old Shamar Omeally of Ten Miles, Bull Bay, St Andrew has been charged with Brown’s murder, while 23-year-old Mario Morrison, of Bamboo district, Hanover, and 31-year-old Gregory Roberts, taxi driver of Maroon Town, St James, were charged with the murder of Gray.


Yesterday, assistant manager at the University of the West Indies branch of Burger King, Mervindavid Aarons, who had some time ago discovered on Facebook that Brown was his cousin after a picture of her was posted on another cousin’s page, said the march was not just for his cousin, but for Jamaica.


"It is a situation that affects everyone. We don’t have to wait until it reaches our doorstep before we take action. We want our voice to be heard and we plead in solidarity for all the other families and friends who have lost their loved ones due to such situations," Aaron said, adding that he would interact with Brown during his visits to the Cross Road branch.


"She always does her work. She is not a person who would be in altercation, she normally stand her ground," Aarons said, adding that he last saw her three weeks prior to her death.


Another colleague, Sophia Barnett, who supervised Brown for two years, said she had a good relationship with her and that she was still trying to cope with her death.


"Whatever you say to her she would say, ‘OK, miss’. It is really hard. Saturday was the funeral. We just have to hang on," Barnett disclosed.


Barnett, who pointed out that Government alone cannot make a change, suggested that "each and everyone has to be our brothers’ keeper".


Burger King supervisor Terry Ann Williams, meanwhile, told the Observer that society needs to move away from the culture of ‘if mi did know’ and start being more responsible.


Williams, who is also a member of Jamaica Against Violence, said that group would be working with the Government, schools and churches to combat violence.


"We are going to be working to get the children off the streets, put programmes in schools, engage the parents more, get church groups [involved] and get the police on board… to stop violence against women," Williams said.


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