Dem a loot, dem a shoot, dem a wail,
In Spanish Town
Another shooting, another riot, another curfew in Spanish Town, Jamaica’s former capital city, situated some ten miles west of Kingston. The town exploded in violence again yesterday following the assassination of Andrew “Bun Man” Hope, leader of the One Order gang. The leader of rival gang, Donovan “Bulbie” Bennett of the Clansmen, was killed by police last October (see post).
Hope was shot in his car when it was attacked by several unknown assailants wearing khaki, reported the police. The immediate suspicion was that the police themselves were behind the assassination. This led to an angry mob blocking off the street, refusing to allow police near the body, and which then went on to loot and burn the old courthouse, next to where Hope was killed. The mob refused to let the fire brigade through to stop the blaze. The police eventually managed to force their way to the car and pushed the crowd back to allow a tow truck to remove the car with the body still inside. Subsequently the police tried to remove other roadblocks set up by angry residents, only for them to be rebuilt once the police moved on. Suspected One Order gang members ran through the streets firing into the air, forcing shops to pull down their shutters. Public transport withdrew services, thousands of commuters were stranded and a curfew was imposed from dusk to 8:00 am.
Amid these almost familiar events, one detail slipped by all except the Gleaner newspaper:
The police confirmed last night that Uriah Matthews, caretaker for the court’s premises, was shot several times and then thrown into the fire.
And the so-called angry residents still wail about the gang leader’s death, claiming he was a peaceful and generous community hero! No one’s even bothered about poor Uriah Matthews.
It’s a well known fact that gang leaders, or dons, have gained support from their local communities through their largesse. Remember scenes from The Godfather II, when Fanucci of The Black Hand strolls through the neighbourhood like a lord, only to be killed by the leader of the next generation of mobsters, Vito Corleone. Similarly in Jamaica, more than two-thirds of the country’s murders are related to rival gang turf wars or vendettas.
The difference in Jamaica is that, since the 1970s, gangs have been allied to one of the two political parties, either the People’s National Party (PNP) or the Jamaican Labour Party (JLP). The alliances manifested themselves in rallying neighbourhood block votes in return for varying degrees of immunity. Huge profits from drug trading and transiting in the 1980s and 1990s gave the gangs more financial power and independence from politicians. More recently, faced with rising public condemnation of criminal association, most politicians have tried to distance themselves from their gang connections. As an example in this evolution, two years ago, the previous leader of the One Order gang was killed in a car owned by his successor and victim of yesterday, Andrew Hope. Local representative, Olivia “Babsie” Grange, had acted as guarantor for Hope’s purchase of the car. Last October, both Hope and Grange narrowly avoided assassination when the car they were both in was sprayed with bullets in Spanish Town. Yet last week I read of Grange’s dedication to a peace initiative in her constituency.
So where’s the truth? Have the dons and politicos divorced over irreconcilable differences, or are they just on a break?
Perhaps the gangs need to re-brand themselves for their former client base:
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