TRUE STORY
     It was a beautiful morning. Hot as July. The perfect sky marred only by the presence of helicopters drifting wasplike over the city skyline. The still moist air also shattered occasionally by the way-too-close bark of gunfire from the ghetto community of August Town nearby.

     I am becoming frustrated of staying home and doing nothing. Bruce called at about 8:30am, to update me on the days activities: we were assuming that we were still shooting an interview with the Prince of Soca, Oscar B, at Harry's Bar at 11:00 am, so we should meet at Harry's at 9:30am. Maybe, maybe not. He called back 15 mins. later to say that it was canceled. Ah well, we understand, the Riots and all. Maybe we'll be able to do the one with Beenie Man on Wed.

     Bruce calls back at about 11:00am with a cool idea. Let's go on the road in the Liguanea/Barbican area and see what kind of footage we can get from what's happening out there. We're not going to any of the REAL danger zones, so it'll be all right. Cool! So I printed up two "Urban Vibes - CREW" stickers fro Bruce's van. He got here at about 1pm and we outfitted ourselves with towels and water against any tear gas, still cameras and video cameras, our Urban Vibes Polo Shirts, and two cold Heinekens. I called Marsha and did the "I Love You"s and told her what I was wearing in case she needed to identify my body. You know - Hope for the Best - Expect the Worst.
     First of all, we drove over to Jamaica College, where we heard on the radio, the students of U.W.I. and UTech (formerly CAST) we heard to have been passing in a peaceful march when they were teargassed. We found said students in Liguanea, indeed, marching peacefully, holding hands and singing. They were joined along the way by masses from all the ghettos nearby. We interviewed one of the students who seemed to be taking on a leadership role amongst the crowd, and he told us they were on their way to Jamaica House to protest peacefully and present their ideas for better revenue collection. At Matilda's Corner - Central Liguanea the air was rocked by the explosions of more teargas canisters going off. Not close enough to have direct effect, but minutes later, faint fumes caused the eyes to water. In front of Sovereign Center, some of the youths jumped onto the van for a ride down with "The Vibes Crew". At this point, we turned around in the Post Office, bade the friendly youths good-bye and headed over to Barbican Square.
     The activity in Barbican Square was centered at the Texaco Star Mart at the foot of Jacks Hill. The crowd consisted mainly of the upper-middle, and upper-class residents of Jacks Hill, Cherry Gardens and Barbican. The atmosphere was almost Carnival-like, with expensive cars and truck parked all about. Most with a cooler open filled with ice and alcoholic beverages, a black e-class Benz sat idling and belting out Bob Marley tunes at high volume on an impressive sounding stereo. So we stayed a while. Took a couple of shots of Sean-Paul (DJ) and friends. Had a beer and just generally hung out. We heard, via radio, that the students had reached Jamaica House and they were doing their thing. Ah! Excitement! Let's go have a look!


     We doubled back into residential Barbican and took Paddington down to East Kingshouse Rd. only to find that side deserted and blocked by soldiers and police. Apparently they had completely sealed off the intersection of Hope, East Kings House and Lady Musgrave Roads, to prevent more people from massing in front of Jamaica House. A crowd which had reportedly reached 5,000 - 7,000 people - mostly students. We decided to go through the Sandy Park area and come out onto Hope Rd. just above the Bob Marley Museum then drive down to the same intersection and shoot some footage there. So we did. Bruce stopped the van in the middle of the road behind a HUGE crowd of people we thought were students, just as they were breaking up and heading back in our direction. Great, we thought, we can catch them as they swarm by the van. I soon recognized the crowd, not as students, but as the rabble who had followed the students down. No problem, they milled around and past the van, and a couple of them jumped onto the bonnet of the van then off again. At this point, I thought it prudent to beat a hasty retreat to avoid riders and hangers-on. Bruce had no such fear, still thinking that these were peaceful, rational students.
     "Let's roll B" I said. By this time, the crowd around the van had gotten thick, 4 or five had now jumped onto the sides of the moving van. Then came the snowball effect, we were going in the same direction as them, so we were obviously their ride. Before we knew it, the van was mobbed and boarded by about 30 -35 of the youth in the crowd making the inside dark now, for all the bodies plastered to the outside. At last, we couldn't even see to drive. There was much shouting and demanding of rides to Papine, the offers to remove Bruce and let someone else drive, commands to clear the way for the driver and so on. Bruce was now fed up, and defiant, so he turned left onto a side road to get back to Barbican square and hopefully lose some riders when they saw we weren't going their way. No such luck...
     This action was met with great protest.

          "Hey, driver, tek us to Liguanea! How yu stay so!"

          "Yow driver! A Papine we a go! Don't romp!"

          "Oy driver! Tek we go a Papine or we kill yu!"

     They were beating on the sides, cursing and threatening. Hanging in through the windows demanding money and the cameras to "run some interview".
     The adrenaline was running high now. One of the youths had entered the van through the sunroof, through which I was shooting. My mind racing, I took out the camera and started interviewing him, with a thousand bodies pressing around the van rocking it and darkening the interior. I asked my interviewee, Kevin, to get his friends to ease off of the van so me and him could do the interview. That offered some relief as they moved from in front of the van to crowd the sides to see what was going on inside. I asked him a few questions, not even hearing the answers. In one of those strange, slow-motion, adrenaline-silent moments I thought: "I should really call Marsha and talk to her. This could be the last time."
     That was the reprieve we needed to regroup. The crowd was getting ugly again, so we agreed to take them as far as Liguanea. We reversed and headed up Hope Rd. 25-30 riders and all. The road was blocked by debris all the way up, we had to take the undulating soft shoulder up most of the way. We would pass groups of people trying to reinforce the blockades, but our riders gained us passage with shouts of:

          "Don't block de road!"

          "Show! Show! Showa a come true!"
               (Show(a) = JLP loyalists "warcry")

     Matilda's corner, by Sovereign. A particularly bad roadblock. Stones strewn around the entire intersection, and more angry protesters. All this time, not another car, not a single security person. The new rabble now rushed the van and demanded that it be turned over to block the intersection. Bruce, oblivious to this, stops to let off the riders and navigate the stony intersection. Some sort of conflict developed outside and some of the riders came off to defend their ride:

     "Show! Showa! Ooonu move!"

     The van rocked.

     "Bruce, we have to go NOW!"
     "Where?!?"
     "ANYWHERE, JUST GO! NOW! NOW!"

     He did. Fast. We took the left around behind Sovereign and the Esso Tiger Mart, dislodging 15 or 20 of the riders who were still on, leaving only 6 or so, including Kevin. Bruce howled the van around the corner with the angry mob chasing us. By now, the 6 in/on the van with us are instantly enemies of the mob, for staying with us, and now our allies.
     As we turned the corner we hit two roadblocks.

     "Go roun my yout'! Fast! Fast! Dem a come!"

     The first of the mob bussed the corner at a run.

     "Tek it on the side Bruce! Go! Go!"


     That was the first one. The second was harder. Bruce stopped briefly then floored it. We blasted through the metal barrels in the way, but one got stuck under the van. Not that it mattered, we weren't stopping now. All 8 of us were in a panic. We had now drawn attention from the onlookers in the area. As we topped that small rise in the road, just past Lane Plaza, right by the Orchid Patch and The Guilt Trip, another roadblock.
     This one was serious. A car and a big water tank. There were orders from Kevin for his boys to clear it:

     "No! No! Tun back! Dat one deh easier!"
     Reverse.
     Quick Turn.

They jumped off again to clear the debris. Fast. We were now tearing through Lane plaza.

     "Don't mek dat guy come pon de car! Drive Driver! Drive!"
     "Move it Bruce! Just Drive! Floor it!"
     "Bumboclaat! Si dem deh!"

The rest of the mob had gone straight up Hope Rd. and met us at the entrance/exit to lane plaza. Bruce howled around the corner and weaved through the crowd on the road.

     "Move! Move! Oonu Move!"

     More roadblocks. Skillful navigation took us through them and past the last of the mob, jumping at the van and shouting at us. As we hit Happy Ice and Welcome Supermarket, we broke free of the mob. We ALL broke into singing and shouts of joy:

     "Rhaatid! What a hexcape!"
     "We mek it! We mek it!"
     "Blouse-and-skirt!"
     "Yeh-Yeah!! Yeh-Yeah!"

     This jubilation took us all the way to Papine, where Kevin and his massive set us up with a promo. The group stood in the middle of the road in deserted Papine and gave us a hearty "Big up Urban Vibes!" We drove away with our lives, some interesting footage, and minus one Canon A1 still camera - Bruce's. On the way back to Bruce's, we stopped on Skyline drive to look out over Kingston, maybe trying to spot someone who had a similar experience. We saw no one.
     Pray for us. Pray for your country. Pray for peace.

Colin

PS Janet, Don't worry. Marsha is OK and she spoke to Michael, who is also OK. Col

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