Scores of school children lined the streets from Stony Gut, St. Thomas to Spanish Town, St. Catherine, last Wednesday (February 8) to view the runners participating in the “Justice Run” organised by the Ministry of Justice.
Along the 45-mile trek, they applauded the runners, who were re-enacting the historic journey made by National Hero, Paul Bogle, 147 years ago, in the fight against injustice.
They were well aware of the significance of the event, which was to recognise Bogle and others, who sowed the seed of Independence and paid the ultimate price for the freedom that Jamaicans now enjoy.
On that historic day in August 1865, Bogle, a successful farmer and landowner, and some of his followers, travelled from Stony Gut to Spanish Town, then Jamaica’s capital city, and the seat of the British-appointed Governor, with the intention of registering dissatisfaction about the poor conditions of the black working class.
In 1865, the black population of Jamaica had almost nothing to show for their almost 30 years of full Emancipation from slavery. The majority had no land or work, wages were dismally low, they were burdened with heavy taxes by the white planter class, and experienced high levels of injustice as they were unfairly punished for crimes they did not commit or given harsh punishment for petty wrongs.
Bogle did not receive ‘justice’ that day as the Governor refused to see him, but he remained undaunted and returned home to Stony Gut, where he and his supporters staged many protests, and even began to plan their own court system, appointing magistrates and other officials. The authorities intervened on hearing of these plans, which eventually led to the Morant Bay Rebellion and Bogle’s subsequent hanging in October of that year.
The symbolic re-enactment of the run, during Restorative Justice Week, and as part of the year-long ‘Jamaica 50’ celebrations, was aimed at highlighting the Government’s commitment to reforming the criminal justice system in an effort to ensure that Jamaicans have access to justice, and to eliminate all cries of “we want justice."
The Ministry is implementing restorative justice as a new approach to justice that focuses on the needs of the victim and offender and involves the wider community, rather than on satisfying legal principles or punishing the offender.
During the run, the participants ran in pairs for five kilometres at a time, carrying a scroll with the Independence Proclamation. The runners handled the document with extreme care, so as to guarantee its safe passage to Spanish Town.
Shawn Pitter and Kirk Brown started the run at the Stony Gut Historical Site at 9:00 a.m. Joining the runners for the second leg, were students of the Paul Bogle High School in St. Thomas, many of whom were elated to be participating in such a symbolic activity.
Speaking with JIS News, Principal of the School, Cordovan Jackson, stated that the re-enactment of Paul Bogle’s journey “will enable students and staff to recognise that whenever there are disputes, there are other ways of settling it. Individuals can find alternative and amicable ways of solving disputes”.
Other schools, which participated in the run were, Donald Quarrie High School, Holy Rosary Primary School, Windward Road All-age and Junior High and Vauxhall High School in Kingston; and Jose Marti High School in St. Catherine.
On the last leg, which ended at Emancipation Square, Spanish Town, were former Olympians, Donald Quarrie and Deon Hemmings-McCatty, who handed over the Proclamation to the Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon Sir Patrick Allen, and Permanent Secretary in the Justice Ministry, Robert Rainford.
The run culminated in a civic ceremony where the Independence Proclamation carried by the Stony Gut runners was read by the Governor-General to remind Jamaicans of that August 6, 1962 day, when the country gained Independence from British colonial rule.
“It was very heartwarming for me and I was so happy to be a part of this,” Mr. Quarrie told JIS News. He said he was reminded of the significance of the journey made by Paul Bogle, adding that it is important for all Jamaicans to participate in the island-wide celebrations of the country’s 50th anniversary of Independence.
“I think it’s important that the young and the old participate in our 50th anniversary because there is so much history that is being shared and… it is significant in our development that we know a lot more about our history,” he said.
Ms. Hemmings stated that it was a pleasure to have participated in the run and she was looking forward to celebrating other activities throughout the year.
The Justice Run was organised by the ‘Jamaica 50’ planning committee of the Ministry of Justice.
By Toni-Ann Russell, JIS PRO