When I drove through through Kingston less than a month ago, the afternoon sidewalks were packed with uniformed school children as the schools let out. The streets were packed with vehicles and pedestrians and local shops conducted a brisk business. There was no cause to believe that just 30 days later, the city would be barricaded as a tense stand-off with police unfolds. This week, sandbag barricades were been erected in the area of West Kingston known as Tivoli Gardens and Denham Town as residents vowed that they are willing to die to prevent the extradition of local strongman Christopher “Dudus” Coke.
Jamaica to Allow Dudus Extradition
On May 18th, after months of stonewalling, the Jamaican government agreed to honor an extradition request for alleged drug and gun trafficker, Christopher “Dudus” Coke. Coke is said to control the area of West Kingston known as Tivoli Gardens and has delivered the vote of that populous neighborhood for Jamaica’s Prime Minister Bruce Golding. Golding had been at the forefront of efforts to block the U.S. extradition request for Coke, citing the gathering of covert information by U.S. authorities as a violation of Jamaica’s constitution says a BBC report.
Jamaica’s Prime Minister Golding Offers Resignation
Golding had also denied that his party had hired a U.S. lobbying firm to intervene in the United States on behalf of Coke, but Monday night he issued a statement saying “In hindsight, the party should never have become involved in the way that it did and I should never have allowed it, but I must accept responsibility for it and express my remorse to the nation.” Golding told Jamaicans that he had offered to resign over the incident, but his party had refused his resignation.
Jamaican Police Issue Warning to Tivoli Gardens
Following the announcement that Jamaica would allow Coke to be extradited to the United States, the Jamaica Observer reports that residents of Coke’s stronghold in Tivoli Gardens erected barricades to prevent police access to the area. Police issued a statement that “It is a breach of the law to erect barricades which impede the movement of the security forces during the lawful performance of their duties… Law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear from the presence of the security forces, as the police intend to conduct our operations in a professional manner in accordance with the law and in the interest of all concerned.”
Tivoli Gardens “the Mother of all Garrisons”
When I was in Kingston, I noted that almost every house was surrounded by thick cement walls topped with ironwork spikes clearly designed to prevent unwanted access. With the addition of sandbag barricades and concertina wire as shown in these police photos published by the Jamaica Observer, any police incursion necessitating going from house to house in that section of Kingston would be quite difficult. The Tivoli Gardens neighborhood has been involved in several violent confrontations with police over the years. The Jamaica Gleaner notes that notorious shoot-outs with police have occurred there in 2008, 2005, 2001, and 1997. The 2001 incident left 27 dead. After the 2005 incident, the head of the Jamaican Defense Force called Tivoli Gardens, “the mother of all garrisons.”
US Issues Travel Alert for Jamaica
The unrest has caused the United States State Department to issue a travel alert for Jamaica stating that “the possibility exists for violence and/or civil unrest in the greater Kingston metropolitan area. There are unconfirmed reports of criminal gang members amassing in the Kingston area, as well as mobilization of Jamaican defense forces. If the situation ignites, there is a possibility of severe disruptions of movement within Kingston, including blocking of access roads to the Norman Manley International Airport. The possibility exists that unrest could spread beyond the general Kingston area.”
Meanwhile, police have told the Jamaica Observer that they are prepared to take a patient approach rather than use brute force to go into Tivoli Gardens searching for Coke at this point.
Jamaica to extradite drug suspect. BBC. May 18, 2010. Retrieved from news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8689423.stm on May 22, 2010.
Take in ‘Dudus.’ Jamaica Observer. May 22, 2010. Retrieved from www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Take-in-Dudus on May 22, 2010.
Travel Alert. U.S. Department of State. May 21, 2010. Retrieved from travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/pa/pa_jamaica.html on May 22, 2010.
Police photos of Tivoli, Denham Town ‘fortifications.’ Jamaica Observer. May 21, 2010. Retrieved from www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Police-photographs-of-Tivoli–Denham-Town–fortifications– on May 22, 2010.
Howard Campbell. Gun battle in Tivoli – Five killed Policeman, soldier injured Nine weapons found. Jamaica Gleaner. January 14, 2008. Retrieved from Gun battle in Tivoli – Five killed Policeman, soldier injured Nine weapons found on May 22, 2010.
Tivoli Gardens not untouchable, says top cop. Jamaica Observer. May 21, 2010. Retrieved from www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Tivoli-Gardens-not-untouchable-says-top-cop on May 22, 2010.