LGBT Jamaicans and their allies protested the increased attacks against gay Jamaicans in front of Devon House in the afternoon rain on September 10th. According to one organizer Angeline Jackson of Quality Citizenship Jamaica (QCJ), the protest was successful “because we have not received reports of anyone being attacked. We had approximately thirteen participants, including the organizers, despite the weather condition. We had four homeless MSM who were brave enough to stand. And we received good media coverage, the best to date I believe, with persons from BBC, CVM TV and CCTV of China.”
For the Jamaican gay community, the month of August 2013 represents the horror of at least seven reported incidents of anti-gay violence following the murder of cross dresser Dwayne Jones in July. The spate of homophobia led some activists to call for an international boycott of Jamaica as a tourist destination.
There has also been increasing talks that activist strategies need to change given that the government continues to remain comfortable with the pervasiveness of homophobic crimes. And there is an increasing sense that the most prominent LGBT organization, JFLAG, has been echoing some of the talking-points of the Jamaican government in saying that the violence isn’t as widespread as reported facts reveal.
But how could a protest of this kind occur in Jamaica without encountering violent attacks?
The stand’s organizers and supporters—Quality of Citizenship Jamaica, AIDS Free World, and youngsters made homeless because of their sexual orientation—strategically chose an area that had high visibility from rush-hour vehicles but low pedestrian traffic. The event was kept short (30 minutes) to prevent anyone from being able to mobilize attacks from surrounding communities.
According to lawyer Maurice Tomlinson, “There was no police presence as the last time we asked the police to provide protection, they parked some distance away, obviously because they did not want to be seen identifying with us.”
But perhaps the police department has a different explanation, one similar to Assistant Commissioner of Police Devon Watkis’s recent declaration which ignored the consistent spate of homophobic violence and declared that “there is no evidence showing members of that community [LGBT] encountering higher violent incidents than other members of the public. Persons supporting the commissioner’s argument point to recent comments made by Dane Lewis, director of JFLAG, saying that the murder of Dwayne Jones is “an anomaly.”
Yet even without state security, the stand would seem successful to those willing to find value in the observation emphasized by QCJ’s Jalna Broderick who says, “When all participants reach their final destination safely,” that is success.