On Friday, July 9, about 8:10 p.m. a group of men and women, some gay, some not, went for a stroll along the Hip Strip in Montego Bay. Their pleasant evening’s outing was soon cut short when members of the Courtesy Corps contracted by Marksman to the Ministry of Tourism started hurling homo-phobic slurs at the group.
In the vicinity of Doctor’s Cave Beach, corps members blocked the group’s further passage, insisting they were gay and hence not allowed on the Hip Strip. This happened in full view of locals and tourists at that busy Friday-evening location populated with numerous eateries and outdoor entertainment. Yet, I understand these ‘tourist police’, as they are ‘affectionately’ called, have been sworn in as district constables, mandated to uphold the peace. And this is how they did it, by harassing and verbally abusing Jamaicans out for an evening stroll.
This incident is sadly reminiscent of the mob killing of Victor Jarrett on Dump-Up Beach in Montego Bay six years ago. At that time, the police hurled insults at Victor who was sitting on the beach, accusing him of being gay and watching men on the beach. A mob formed which chased Victor into Canterbury where his bludgeoned body was discovered the next day. Needless to say, no one was arrested for this act of treacherous villainy.
Admittedly, such actions by regular members of the police force have declined sharply but clearly the tourist police did not get the memo – they are there to serve and protect all individuals on the Hip Strip.
I wonder if they would have been as quick to harass white effeminate or gay North Americans? The clear double standard must stop. All Jamaicans are entitled to basic human rights, including the right to freedom of movement! I know the matter has been reported to Marksman, the police and Tourism Product Development Company. I expect swift and decisive action to be taken against these perpetrators.
I am, etc.,