November 9 1996 would never be the same for myself and subsequently three other co-accused gay men who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, time flies indeed and I cannot believe that a full 20 years have passed when on Palisadoes Road to be precise when were surprised by bright lights and as it turned out it was a search-light atop a police car who happened on us complete with expletives, raised decibels and a string other anti homosexual comments when they realised we were all male. Despite that fact that no anal sex was happening at the time of the encounter we were none the less charged for it or at least two of us, myself and my then dating boyfriend who now lives abroad since the episode.
You may have heard my reference my buggery case from time to time in previous posts, well it all stemmed from the bizarre sequence of events that morning.
Picture it, a young man in my twenty third year of life with not a care in the world than normal, in a decent job, a roof over my head, mom and dad were still around and relatively healthy and mortgage payments; on vacation leave only to have my life turned completely out of whack just before returning to work due the following Monday, after running some errands in Spanish Town the night before, November 8 I made my way to the barbers to get my grooming on and keep my face tight; I ran into my cousin who was having drinks at a bar and he offered and we chatted about all kinds of nonsense, I was not out yet to him so I suspect he did not out rightly know I was gay although there was talk in the family already as I had no girlfriend since my late teens full time and apart from her miscarriage I never attempted for children.
We drove off to head for home as he lives just across the same housing scheme but he said he wanted to chill some more so we ended up at a street dance off Brunswick Avenue and had a few more drinks and by midnight we finally called it quits. Arrived home and decided to take a shower when the phone rang, it was my then date who said he was bored and his best friend one of the now infamous four were out and about on the town when they offered to come get me; I hesitated as I usual do not venture out after coming in from the road; they pressed me none the less and I capitulated. In less than twenty minutes there was the toot at my gate, relatively fast since it was late, I showered and left in the car. We were having a ball, four young men with not a care in the world, we look good, we had money so what is to stop us apart from the nonsense homophobia we were about to walk into. We stopped by a popular hookup joint then known as ‘Sandringham’ but it was full so we headed to Burger King had a bite and left aimlessly out and about, the road was busy as the early air of the Christmas holidays were visible with the trademark pepper lights, tinsel and such were in full swing. So we somehow decided to drive and anywhere the destination landed us then so be it.
We ended up at Palisadoes, upon our arrival we parked just opposite the airport runway but realised we had company as other persons were there; mostly heterosexual couples doing their thing in the vehicles as it is a popular spot for that sort of thing; a refridegerated truck drove off but we did not pay it any attention and we moved closer to the sea shore where we dipped our feet in the water, then we moved to the ill-fated spot and paired off in a romantic setting then came the floodlights aimed at the car and plain clothes as well as uniformed cops came charging out; upon discovering we were all males then homophobia started; my shirt was off by then so I put it on and the other two guys who were leaning on the rear of the car a grey Toyota Corolla were ordered to allow the cops to search them.
We were hustled into the patrol vehicle while one of the officers drove behind it to the Airport police precinct and that’s when things got interesting:
Parading of us as ‘battyman’
Numerous phonecalls to alert other officers of us
A barrage of questions dotted with condemnation as to our abomination and nastiness to include ‘shitpit’ references, I guess they never actually gay men in the flesh directly before in full knowledge of their sexuality so curiosity was high
Attempts to get us to tell when and where we started being gay and that if we do not know we can change; the usual restorative mantra
A full out prayer meeting at one point as we ignored it for the most part to change us into heterosexuals again by a fire brand female officer who sounded Pentecostal like
Attempts to try to get us to give a statement despite that fact that the charge was not yet entered in the station diary; some cops dismissed the whole affair and urged the others to let us go and move on as one put it at the time words to the effect that ‘dem a decent yute dem man’ (these are decent men) maybe implying the effort should be more on hardened criminal suspects, myself and my date were ones who seemed to be targeted for getting the full buggery charge seeing we were on the backseat of the car not naked but shirts off and in a hugging position, the other two guys ended up with a gross indecency charge; we were asked to strip away from the other cops and our underwear taken to supposedly be used as exhibits. A corporal Bailey was more civil in how she dealt with us and seemed sympathetic but I had my doubts as it could have been a softening exercise to have us implicate ourselves, a tactic used by police when they know that they have a weak case with nothing to stand on.
The ordeal lasted for a 5 hours so much so I started fall asleep in the backroom of the station, by the time sunrise came we could hear the mob outside the station demanding the cops hand us over to them as word spread of the ‘four battyman dem’ so arrangements were made to take us into town itself as the jail cells there had suspects. The departure from the station was another matter as the cops had to make a passage way with their bodies as the mob waited eagerly; we were told to dash towards the jeep which we did and the mob went bezerk in their failure to get us and the police’s protection of battyman. We subsequently were taken on tour it seems to multiple police posts and precincts, namely Half Way Tree where interestingly despite no cell phone technology then prisoners/suspects were shouting from the windows of cells which one they wanted ‘the brown one’ referring to Nigel in the group. I thought they meant to exact violence but I subsequently learned later that it was for sex (despite Jamaica’s homophobia) substitutional sex in prisons or the prison wife phenomenon is very much here.
We then ended up at Elleston Road where another display session took place much to the raucous laughter of some, we were all frightened as we did not know where this was going given the awful history of police abuse of gay men years prior often gone unabated and corrected. Then someone called my name even as I hid my face between my legs worried about what my family would think when they get wind of this; the voice was that of a police officer who I knew so Lord I melted as he would be the one to take news onwards, I never responded when he repeatedly called me and then cursed an expletive and walked muffling under his breath ‘battyman’ we made our statements after the charges were read to us and the taunts and curiosity seekers were at it as at Pailsadoes. Were then were taken to Central precinct in a bid it seems to find a place to put us on remand and again as at the previous locales the humiliation, curiosity, verbal abuse persisted.
We ended up at the Elleston Road Medical centre with now 8 cops (two of which I subsequently learned were bisexual as they came out to me years later) to be examined by the doctor on behalf of the state to prepare the doctor’s report for the prosecution/arresting officer. To think the doctor effectively had to commit buggery by fingering in a glove with lube to check the tightness or looseness of our sphincter muscles. The report later suggested spermatozoa cells were present normally at the fibres of the clothing where they should be but also at my anus (first sign of a falsified report in hindsight) as remembering no anal sex occurred and a condom that was in my pocket ended up also as an exhibit. But let us not rush it yet, we were then taken to Remand Centre in Rema and the cops their all but one all agreed to use the story of a charge of illegal drugs seeing it was at the airport stretch which is also known as a float away point for cocaine. This was done to diffuse any challenges that may come while we were in custody but one police woman decided to circulate by way of a note that were bugga man.
That’s when all hell broke loose and the beatings started; we were then separated into different cells so as to reduce the familiarity component but it was clear by our second day on lock down a cell block shanking was in order. I was able to defend myself in a way but my other pals I could hear my date pleading for no more hits. The ordeal went on for some hours before things cooled. We had court the morning in questions and the bruises were evident but despite the cops asking us to point out the culprits we kept it in as we were not sure of the aftermath. We subsequently placed in one cell which was not on lock down like the others with more hardened accused. Everything from hits with bottles, to the trademark melted plastic on skin was used as tortures to us but thankfully we made it through. The court hearings started and even there in the hallowed halls of justice we were subjected to ridicule even by one of the four judges overall who heard the case, inescapable homophobia I suppose. The judge in question asked who was doing whom? Much to the laughter of the courtroom. Some two years plus passed with the repeated mention dates as the arresting officers simply stopped attending court despite numerous subpoenas. We were advised not to give up and attend every mention date; we did and then the faithful day came when we asked the bench to throw out the matter sighting our punctuality in court and our employers (three of us were still employed) expressing concerns of loss of man hours ti which she complied and adjourned it sine die (set aside for seven years and could be recalled if the arresting officer found new evidence). By this time there was no JFLAG or groups like that so apart from words of encouragement from some, and then a more proactive Jamaica AIDS Support, JAS we had to start all over again.
Malice, verbal abuse, homophobia in various forms and gossip punctuated my life for years so much so I relocated to Kingston; I then started by disc jock stint at the Club Entourage on Christmas Eve 1996 out on bail of course thanks to JFLAG co-founder Brian Williamson. Some family members have not spoken to me since while others have (re)connected over the years. My experience has taught me lots and gave me the resolve to being the person I am today despite losing some friends to murders, HIV related diseases and a slow progress to change in Jamaica. I’ll admit at times I feel near burnout but I use the rubber band technique and bounce back. You live and you learn I guess.
Thanks for your support over the years but the journey continue.
Peace & tolerance