West Kingston residents march for peace
MORE than 1,000 residents from communities in and around West Kingston yesterday took to the streets with placards as they called for peace in the violence-torn section of the Jamaican capital.
"We are tired of the crime; enough is enough," said Kageeh Thomas, who noted that it had been almost three years since he was able to walk through some sections of the area because of violence.
The 20-year-old man was among the large group of men, women and children who, during the march, said that their lives had been placed on hold because of gang violence and that they were desperate for a change.
The peace march, which started at the intersection of Slipe Pen Road and Hannah Street, Denham Town, and ended at the neighbouring Tivoli Gardens Police Post, saw Security Minister Peter Bunting, members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, led by Commissioner Owen Ellington, and officials from churches from several communities in West Kingston walking the streets to show their support.
"The children of this [and other] communities deserve peace; they deserve to grow up without being molested, they deserve to grow up the normal way children all across the world are allowed to grow up," said Minister Bunting as he addressed a large crowd of men, women and children gathered at the intersection of Regent Street and North Street — one of several stops made through the more than three-hour-long march.
He was supported by Ellington, who challenged residents to join the police in the fight against crime.
"We would like to defend your communities from the onslaught of gangs, but we (police) cannot do it along we need your support," said the police chief.
"It is time to change; we cannot afford to live under these conditions," added Ellington, who warned that the police would leave no stone unturned in their efforts to rid communities of criminal gangs.
He also warned of the anti-gang law, which he made clear would make life uneasy for those who made it their intention to hurt law-abiding citizens.
"We really think it (march) is a good idea and we believe that it is really God that is behind this initiative; enough is enough," said senior citizen Marlene O'Sullivan. She said that despite suffering from three strokes in the past, she made an effort to participate in the march as people moved though a section of Tivoli Gardens known as Lizard Town.
Another resident, Margaret Ormsby, said she was hoping that the initiative would make a change.
Yesterday, Assistant Commissioner George Quallo, head of Police Area Four, of which West Kingston is a part, said he was encouraged by the turnout. "This is the third in a series of initiatives in Area 4 to join with residents and other organisations to take back communities from these criminal gangs, and we are really happy to see the turnout," said Quallo.
Senior Superintendent Steve McGregor, who heads the West Kingston Division, shared similar sentiments. "To see people coming this way is really an encouraging sign and we are hoping and will be working to ensure that the initiative is maintained," said McGregor.