Columns

Name the gangsters and publish their pictures

Jason McKay

Sunday, October 20, 2019

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The murder of British black teenager Stephen Lawrence in April 1993 by five white racist teenagers represents several things in the history of modern England.

These include the deep divide between whites and people of colour in that country, the power of public opinion, the institutionalised racism of the police force, and the good that can happen when one newspaper stands up for what is right.

This murder went virtually without investigation at first and would never have been solved had it not been for the Daily Mail stepping up a campaign of harassment that virtually bullied the system and indeed the police force to fix what they chose to neglect.

This campaign culminated in a story naming the five murderers and displaying their photographs, whilst daring them to sue the newspaper. They further blasted the investigators of the murder as being negligent, and accused the entire police force of being “institutionally racist”. (And we have that country criticising our human rights record. That is ironic).

The report that followed after a detailed study and investigation by Lord McPherson formalised this description. This brought about change in the way the investigation of the murders of black youths in Britain was conducted.

The messages from this story are so many and so sad, but the one that I want to discuss is the power of naming the offenders by the press. We can discuss British hypocrisy and interference in our country's affairs at another time.

The naming of the killers in that iconic article headlined 'Murderers' had an impact that cannot be measured. It brought an identity to the killers, two of whom were eventually convicted 18 years after the murder.

Now that is the power of the pen.

So on that note I am suggesting the naming of every known gang member in Jamaica in a public medium. We could publish their names like we used to do with Common Entrance Examination results in the 1970s and 80s.

Let us make the public know who the killers, rapists and robbers who make up gangs are.

In fact, let us also create a website that records and informs of their arrests, detentions, convictions and acquittals in real time. And when they meet their demise, let us highlight that in red.

This would allow us to track the offenders and not be fooled into believing that every murder victim is faultless. Or that every gunman shot by the police is an innocent 'yute'.

It would allow us to divide the murder statistics into victims of murder versus victims of their own lifestyles.

For too long this farce has been sold to us that the victims of murders are all hard-working Jamaican people. I would argue, based on my own research, that about 70 to 80 per cent of murder victims are criminals, who have themselves killed during their lifetime.

Naming them would allow us to make a proper assessment of our risk to actually live here.

It could also serve to dissuade other young men from getting into gangs, as they would be able to track the demise of existing gang members who go from frequent detention to eventual death or long-term incarceration.

Also, importantly, it takes the power away from criminal rights organisations to sell the public on the innocence of criminals incarcerated, wounded, or killed in combat with the police.

This they did in 2001, assisted by a willing press, in selling the criminals of the 'Braeton Seven' shooting as innocent teenagers.

The most important factor though is that once a criminal is identified and put under a microscope, there is less anonymity in their activities. They know we know, and they know the law knows. They become a subset of our country.

There are citizens, then there are gang members. We are not the same people. We work, they prey. We build, they destroy.

The Daily Mail's action was bold, monumental and loud. Stephen Lawrence's murder deserved this reaction. Killing defenceless teenagers for any reason is evil. Doing it for race is, in addition, senseless.

The action and inaction of the police investigation needed to be exposed, and it needed to be punished.

We in Jamaica want change, but we do not want to be too loud in demanding it. Why? That will never work!

Silence and fear of criticism are shackles. Be bold.

If you think a person is a behaving like a mongrel, say it; if you are a journalist, write it. If your politicians associate with gangsters to win seats, expose it. If you believe rapists should be castrated or murderers hung in Half-Way-Tree, let your voice be heard. Moderation has no place in a country with more violence than a war zone.

It took a civil war to end slavery in the United States of America. It took the Attica prison riot to bring about needed penal reforms.

You are going to have to make a bit of a bang to defeat our band of cowards.

Feedback: jasonamckay@gmail.com


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