Scores of residents in the parish of St. James, and representatives of civic groups, religious organisations and political parties turned out wearing black on September 28 in Sam Sharpe Square, Montego Bay, to show solidarity and support for the five females who were raped by two gunmen in that city on September 24.
Mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Glendon Harris, said the large turnout of persons was "a clear indication that the people of the parish of St. James will not allow what has been happening over the years, and particularly what happened (on September 24)."
"We are not here as a show, we are here to say to those who don't want this parish to flourish, the time has come where we will no longer allow them to take charge of this parish, and deprive us of the freedom of the spirit of Sam Sharpe and Marcus Garvey to live on in this parish. Stop it now," the Mayor told the gathering.
Member of Parliament for Central St. James, Mr. Lloyd B. Smith, while imploring the residents to be calm in their calls for swift justice and allow the formal system to work, said "we need new legislation to ensure that these brutish beasts are put away forever."
"We cannot afford to reach a stage in this country where our women become mere animals to be brutalised. I give my full support to the police, I know they are going to do a very good job, let them finish the job. We don't have to go the route of vigilante justice, because some of you might end up being the victims as well. Let the police do their work," Mr. Smith urged.
For her part, reigning Miss Festival Queen for St. James, Rochelle-Lee Fagan, said the wide cross-section of persons who rallied for the public support of the rape victims and for an end to violence, showed that "we are unified in the parish of St. James, and we are prepared to stand up and to make our voices heard, and to do what is necessary for the parish to advance."
"Am I to live in fear? No, we are all here today, to say wi nuh fraid a unu. Wi nuh fraid.' We are out here because we are not afraid. Put down the gun, put down the knife, stop attacking women, children, everybody, old and the disabled," she said, while urging young men to leave crime and seek training and employment opportunities.
Co-ordinator for the Victim Support Unit in the parish, Debbian Dalley, called on men to be good fathers and for "women to stand up and for right and justice. Fathers, be men of St. James, be men of the world, let us live right for our children."
Meanwhile, Head of the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA), Superintendent Gladys Brown, told the gathering that the police are working diligently to bring the criminals to justice speedily.
"We are here to ensure that the job is completed before we go back to Kingston, and to let you know that we don't want you to do anything that will cause you to be in trouble with us. Leave everything to us – we have everything under control. Justice must be done, but it must be manifestly and fairly done, and we don't want anybody to take matters in their hands," she said.
Support for the initiative also came from the Child Development Agency (CDA), the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce, and the recently formed group, the Coalition Against Sexual Violence.