In May 2010, the Jamaican government, at the request of the United States, set out to extradite Christopher “Dudus” Coke from a Jamaican slum called Tivoli Gardens, in West Kingston. He was wanted in the US on charges of racketeering, selling drugs...
Cutty Corn, with Scaby Dread, Dudus's uncle, and other Dudus family associates. Photo by Willie Toledo.
In May 2010, the Jamaican government, at the request of the United States, set out to extradite Christopher “Dudus” Coke from a Jamaican slum called Tivoli Gardens, in West Kingston. He was wanted in the US on charges of racketeering, selling drugs, assault, and murder, but in Tivoli, he was something of a hero—a Robin Hood of the ghetto. With his vast wealth and the muscle of his drug gang, the Shower Posse, he’d improved roads and social services, built community centers and health clinics for the 5,000 or so impoverished residents there. They called him “the President.” He was so beloved, in fact, that outsiders didn’t dare enter the neighborhood without their President’s approval.
So when the Jamaican Defense Force (JDF) came to extract Dudus from the neighborhood on the morning of May 24, 2010, they came well armed. What happened in the remaining day of fighting is something of a mystery. What we do know is that Dudus sneaked out of the neighborhood disguised as a woman, but was captured, extradited to the US, and eventually sentenced in New York to 23 years in prison. We also know that at least 73 people died, including one American. An investigation by the New Yorker last year provided compelling evidence that the JDF, with the assistance of the Department of Homeland Security—who flew an airplane over the neighborhood during the fighting to provide logistical support to the Jamaican troops—massacred Dudus’s supporters. They also found evidence of rapes and civilians being killed. Only six guns were recovered from neighborhood-dwellers.
Yesterday, footage from the Department of Homeland Security plane was released. Running from 9:30 AM to 3 PM on May 24, 2010, it shows the hours during which the JDF stormed the neighborhood and the hours just before most witnesses say the majority of the 73 killings took place. The footage was made available after the New Yorker and a team of law students at Yale University sued the Department of Homeland Security to make the footage public.
Today, VICE got on the phone with Scaby Dread, a member of the Coke family as well as the Shower Posse, who insisted that there were, in fact, more than 73 people murdered by the JDF during the raid. The video is shaky and doesn’t provide any conclusive evidence either way—but it does suggest that, contrary to the JDF's claims, the residents of Tivoli Gardens weren’t heavily armed, as the JDF has claimed. Cutty Corn, another member of the Shower Posse, also alleged that numerous bodies from the massacre were buried in another neighborhood, May Pen, and remain there today. "There is no justice for the people of the ghetto" Cutty told me by phone today. "And it is sad that we get no help from anyone."
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