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Kingston Mayor, Councillor Tear-gassed!

Joanna Ferguson
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  • (taken from the Jamaica Observer website)

    Mayor of Kingston, Desmond McKenzie, was tear-gassed yesterday by police, while leading a group of Jamaica Labour Party councillors and mayors councils to Jamaica House to deliver a letter to Prime Minister PJ Patterson.

    According to Mayor McKenzie the incident occurred after all the island's mayors, except for Westmoreland and Portmore, attempted to walk from Devon House to Jamaica House to give a letter to Mr. Patterson, concerning the limited funds that the were receiving from the government.

    "We were physically attacked by members of the security forces, with tear gas and batons. I was hit on the foot with a teargas canister, " he said.

    As a result, the injured councillors had to seek medical attention at the Andrews Memorial Hospital nearby. "I had to be given oxygen and [an] injection for inhaling the tear gas," he added.

    The police reports are that the total number of persons present at the march, inclusive of mayors, as well as councillors, was approximately 150 persons.

    However, Superintendent Harry Daley of the Area Four headquarters said the JLP delegation was a breach of the law. "The gathering of persons with a common intent to do an act that is unlawful [justifies police officers' use of] sufficient force as is necessary to disperse that gathering. They were told they should not march without a permit. They applied for and [were] refused a permit, and as such, any movement of a body of persons towards this intent as expressed by them would have been unlawful," he said.

    He said persons were able to apply for a permit from police and other agencies, such as the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC), at least three days prior to the act for which the permit was requested.

    Mayor McKenzie said the Jamaica Labour Party mayors and councillors never intended to have a "massive demonstration." "It wasn't a demonstration because we know that the law does not allow you to demonstrate in front of Jamaica House and we respected that."

    On this basis, the mayor and other councillors did not believe they had broken the law. I addition, Councillor of the Gayle Division in St. Mary, Jason James, said they were not breaking the law "because we did not get to the 200 yards from Jamaica House."

    The St. Mary Councillor described the action taken by the police and mobile reserve as "police brutality."