KINGSTON (Reuters) – Wearing black and braving a blistering sun, Jamaicans gathered on Saturday to lend support to global protests against police abuses sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month.
Several hundred people stood outside the U.S. Embassy in Kingston with signs and t-shirts reading “Black Lives Matter” and “Enough is Enough,” demanding justice for Floyd as well as Jamaicans who have died at the hands of security forces.
Floyd, a black American, died in Minneapolis after a white police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest.
The Kingston protests were peaceful, and police mostly stood by watching as demonstrators voiced their concerns.
“I am here to protest against injustice and systematic racism,” said Michael Pottinger, 58.
According to a government-backed study, over 3,000 Jamaicans have been killed by law enforcement officials since 2000.
In a country where the vast majority of people are of African descent, Jamaicans say racism can take on subtler forms.
Jemila Henry, 23, expressed solidarity with U.S. protesters and wanted to raise awareness of local problems.
“You have persons in Jamaica who don’t believe we experience anything remotely racist, but technically it can be described as colorism,” she said, noting that Jamaicans with lighter skin are perceived as superior to those with darker skin.
Alice Hogarth, 70, who organized a separate protest at Emancipation Park in central Kingston, said racism due to skin color might be less blatant, “but we have classism here.”
Human rights activist Lloyd D’Aguilar, who attended the protest at the U.S. Embassy, was concerned about a lack of action on killings by security forces in Jamaica.
“There are never any follow-up protests,” he said. “The positive is that people are paying attention to the massive protests in the United States – this is where we need to go.”
Reporting by Kate Chappell; Editing by Dave Graham and Dan Grebler