SNOT AND TEARS gushed from the nose and eyes of a Tivoli Gardens woman as she lamented the macabre canvas of carnage into which the community had been transformed in three days of urban warfare.
Like so many residents, the angel of death had ravaged her family.
“My sister has been killed and dogs have eaten her body in the streets,” the woman, who declined to disclose her name, told journalists who were granted a one-hour tour of the battleground yesterday.
The security forces launched a blitzkrieg on Tivoli Gardens on Monday to execute a warrant for the arrest of Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, a notorious enforcer who is wanted in the United States on drug- and gun-trafficking charges.
Government officials have put the death count at 73 but former Member of Parliament Edward Seaga and residents claim that more than 100 people were killed. Communication blackouts on some issues have rendered reporters unable to verify or disclaim residents’ accounts.
The sun had barely peeped from behind the early-morning rain clouds yesterday when journalists arrived in Tivoli Gardens to the shouts of “freedom” from residents, mainly women.
Some say they would not have been allowed outside were it not for the media tour of the death-doomed community.
Grief was written on the face of most residents. Even babies appeared to be wondering what had befallen them.
“The children are traumatised, we can’t take it anymore,” one woman shouted from a building.
Though the surviving residents bore no scars on their persons from the unprecedented attack from the island’s military machine, many buildings and motor vehicles had tell-tale signs of fierce gunfights. In Top Ten, a section of the community, a glass door and panels at one of Coke’s Presidential Click offices were shattered.
The Gleaner, however, did not see any bodies or signs of blood in areas to which journalists gained access. Java, a hang-out spot of Coke’s, and the old Public Works Department building – where it is reported that bodies had been burnt – were out of bounds.
Many Tivoli residents began sending an unequivocal message of condemnation to Member of Parliament Bruce Golding the prime minister. He is no longer welcome in the constituency, they said.
“Away with Bruce! Him use we and refuse we. Bruce Golding must go!” one resident shouted.
One woman told The Gleaner that it was not only Golding who should pay a political price in the aftermath of the Battle of Tivoli.
“No more voting. We done wid politician. Marcus Garvey dead but him word live on. Black people nah go know demself until we back against the wall, and we know we self now,” said the woman, who claimed she lost a nephew in the military incursion.
Unable to leave
The police had issued appeals for women and children to leave Tivoli Gardens as they prepared to attack men who had mounted several barricades at community corridors.
However, residents said they would have put their lives in danger as the power was turned off late in the evening when the State had sent buses to transport them to shelters.
But that was not the sole reason some decided to remain in the community.
“Leave? And go where? We did always free. All dem a blame di man, we did always free. The politicians dem a wicked, too, dem nuh innocent,” one woman said.
While she was defiant and would not mince words, Jackie, another resident, could hardly contain her grief and her desire to leave Tivoli behind.
“Mi waah live now. Mi caah tek no more a dis. Mi caah stay. Mi caah manage this,” Jackie said, as tears rolled down her face.