A GROUP who confronted the vehicular convoy of the Earl and Countess of Wessex on Saturday with signs demanding reparations “now” challenged that the British castles and wealth were acquired through a holocaust and that this wrong should be repaired.
A landscaper and well known figure by the name of ‘Ras John’, correct name Edroy Aster, stood with fellow protesters, waving the red, green and gold Rastafarian flag that depicts the Lion of Judah.
He explained to SEARCHLIGHT that he wanted to send a message that what is needed is not a visit to the country by royals but instead a “boatload of money” to give to the country to build it up in this time of deep financial crisis.
The protest on April 23 started in Diamond at the Sir Vincent Beache stadium and then moved on to Arnos Vale, at the Sports Complex before reaching the Government House. The group pre-empted the line of vehicles that carried Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex, to various stops on their official visit to the state on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her Platinum Jubilee.
“My shirt says ‘Injury invites Reward’. It means that if you injure a people, you owe them and you should pay them. Our people were injured. We lost our culture, we lost our history, we lost our religion, we lost our spirituality, we lost our way of lives and the neo-colonial mindset was imposed upon our home,” explained Jomo Thomas, a lawyer, activist and fighter of the reparations cause for decades.
“Those of us who understand our history, understand that the British came, they conquered our country, they committed genocide against our people, they sent their pirates to the African continent, they kidnapped and snatched our people and brought them through the transatlantic slave trade over here and they enslaved us and worked us…” Thomas said while holding one end of a long banner bearing the words “Reparations now”.
“In other words they stole us, they owned us, they worked us and they owe us and they must pay reparations for that,” he said, referring to “all of those people who benefited from the slave trade that saw millions of Africans taken from the continent to foreign shores to work under cruel conditions without pay.
“…The time has come for our people to gain reparations, step by step, one by one, but we would win. As the Guyanese poet, Martin Carter says ‘Reparations time is now and if I don’t see it, my children will see it’ but we are certain that our people would win,” Thomas concluded.
Such a repair can take multiple forms to be decided by the injured party, the lawyer said, listing monetary awards, scholarships, developmental assistance, and medical attention as some examples.
Protester, Marcella Dublin said she took up the cause in representation of the youth.
“…Oftentimes we think that this fight should be the senior persons, we leave it up to the senior persons, so I want to encourage young persons to be a part of the reparations fight. It is too long that Britain has just been acknowledging the atrocities that they have put Africans and the indigenous people of the Caribbean through and we say no more in acknowledging it, we want reparations, we want an apology and we need compensation for it,” the young woman said.
Concerned citizen, Ideisha Jackson told SEARCHLIGHT, “We are thinking that the persons, which is the royal family, have benefited tremendously from the wealth that they stole from Africa, as well as the persons that they robbed and plundered from Africa and we are seeking an apology, we are seeking compensation for the wrong that they have done and the return of all artefacts and all gold and diamonds that they stole many years ago.”
They stood to bring awareness, she said, and it is a continuous fight and not simply a “today” event.
“We’re asking that you pay for the loss of life, we’re asking that you pay for the emotional damage, the post traumatic stress syndrome that we still have facing today,” Jackson said.
She noted that in the Caribbean “persons have reached the limit – we no longer going to be docile peasants and say okay we welcome you Queen and King of England and your descendants no. You need to know that what you did was wrong. You need to know that the wealth that you have sitting on and your castles and all your wealth was acquired through an atrocity, through a genocide, through a holocaust, and you need to admit and correct that wrong.”
Lawyer, Jospeh Delves’ sign stated: “You stole us, you sold us, you owe us reparations”.
Delves said that he stood “to draw to the attention of the British monarchy and the British Government that these issues haven’t been forgotten.”
He noted that they have nothing personally against the couple.
“This is business because slavery was big business right? And they built up their country on the backs of slaves, they enriched themselves and underdeveloped us,” he commented.
He also argued, “we’re in the third or fourth or fifth world, they are highly developed and a large part of that is because they sucked the wealth out of this country and other countries on the backs of slaves. It’s blood money – so it’s what reparations is all about, recompense, compensation. I know that they are fighting it, they don’t want to talk about it, they circle around it, but it has to be done. It’s equity.”
This is not the first of the Platinum Jubilee visits to the Caribbean that have met with protests.
One month ago the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and his wife Katherine, visited Jamaica amidst protests where persons demanded an apology and reparations.