Americas / Commentary

Jamaican police, stop anti-LGBT pepper-spray attacks

Lloyd D'Aguilar used this image of a billy club-wielding policeman to illustrate his appeal to Police Commissioner George Quallo (left) to put an end to police violence against homeless people.

Lloyd D’Aguilar used this image of a billy club-wielding policeman to illustrate his appeal to Police Commissioner George Quallo (left) to put an end to police violence against homeless people.

On many nights, police in Jamaica attack homeless LGBT residents of Kingston with pepper spray in order to force them to move on or move away.

Gatherings of homeless LGBT people, especially youth, have been an issue in Kingston for years, as families oust LGBT children from their homes and police then force them out of wherever they gather.

Local activist Lloyd D’Aguilar wrote the following open letter to the Commissioner of Police about the problem. He submitted it to local newspapers, but they have not published it.

Dear Commissioner of Police, George Quallo,

I write to bring to your attention a matter that demands your immediate intervention.

Lloyd D'Aguilar (Photo by Colin Stewart)

Lloyd D’Aguilar (Photo by Colin Stewart)

Within the past month there have been at least three occasions where police personnel, without provocation, have pepper-sprayed homeless gay and transgender individuals in the Half Way Tree area, and specifically in the vicinity of Mandela Park.

My report is that the police parties descended upon them, ordered them to move on and then proceeded to pepper-spray them.

There is no evidence that these gay transgender individuals posed any threat to “law and order” other than that they were bunched together in a public space.  Is there a law against these individuals assembling in front of the Half Way Tree Post Office, or York Pharmacy, or on the outskirts of Mandela Park, even if for the purpose of sleeping?

By way of comparison, do the police disperse and pepper spray those elderly, homeless persons who assemble and sleep in front of the Supreme Court building on King Street or the Post Office side of that road?

The description of these policemen is that they are dressed in the fatigues worn by Mobile Reserve policemen. This further suggests that these Mobile Reserve policemen are not acting randomly but have been given specific instructions by those who command them.

Police have attacked LGBT gatherings at these locations in Kingston, Lloyd D'Aguilar says. (Photos courtesy of Lloyd D'Aguilar)

Police have attacked LGBT gatherings at these locations in Kingston, Lloyd D’Aguilar says. (Photos courtesy of Lloyd D’Aguilar)

JCF Force Orders requires that pepper spray be given to those trained to use them; that they must be signed for in the Station log; and, that on return there must be a report as to whether they were used or not, and if so, an explanation given for usage. (JCF Force Orders. Part 1- Administration and Notifications Serial NO. 3347. The Growth and Professionalism in Criminal Administration by the JCF).

Commissioner Quallo, I believe that you have a duty to  investigate this claim: (1) whether homeless gay and transgender individuals are being specifically targeted; (2) whether pepper spray is the weapon of choice;  and (3) are the rules governing the use of pepper spray being followed, especially written record requirements?

The quality of your leadership of the JCF hangs on a prompt investigation of this matter. (1) Is the JCF pursuing a policy of deliberate violence against homeless gays and transgender individuals?  (2) Does the JCF respect the right of individuals to have access to public spaces regardless of their race, sex, religion, or sexual orientation?

Failure to promptly investigate and put a stop to this abuse will clearly imply your support for criminal behaviour by the JCF and, therefore, disqualify you from further leadership of an organization which claims that its mission is to Serve and Protect Jamaican citizens.

I look forward to your prompt response and answers to the questions posed.

Sincerely,

Lloyd D’Aguilar
Convenor
JUSTICE NOW: Economic Social Political

On Twitter, Lloyd d'Aguilar appeal to Commissioner of Police George Quallo to put an end to police violence against homeless people in Kingston, Jamaica.

Lloyd d’Aguilar appealed on Twitter to Commissioner of Police George Quallo (left) to put an end to police violence against homeless people in Kingston, Jamaica.

Lloyd D’Aguilar is a Jamaican human rights activist, freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker.

Related commentaries by Lloyd D’Aguilar:

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