Repentant Gangsters March Through Old Capital for Peace
A truce is in the making among rival gangs in the City. Going into the Easter holidays, Assistant Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams, whose work in community policing has been bearing fruits, brought gangs together, today. It is not the first time that a truce has been tried, but Williams hopes that this time it will hold. The event started with a peace walk from the Raccoon Street Police station to the Rogers Stadium. Gang members traded in their bandanas in favor of white t-shirts bearing “We are Humans.” Along the route spectators watched members of opposing gangs marching in unity as a first indication that peace is possible. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
The first gang truce in Belize City was held back in the early nineties at the iconic Bird‘s Isle auditorium. Since then, there have been several efforts, including the famous ceasefire in September 2011, when various crime bosses met with Prime Minister Barrow in an effort to quell the ongoing bloodshed in the streets of the Old Capital. Today, those warring factions are, once again, a step closer to making peace with each other, now going by the mantra ‘We are humans.’
Ellis Meighan, Leader, Ghost Town Crips
“Me and Brandon and B.T. and dehn bally da from seven, eight, nine years ago and at the end ah di day dehn got wah time fi everything, wahn time fi peace, wahn time fi love and wahn time fi defend yohself. Dis da wahn time fi peace. We tyad ah sih man di go down and innocent people di get shot. Wah eighty-four-year-old lady get shot di other day. I lose my uncle and my pa, yo dig. Dehn got man out ya weh noh lose nothing. So we di try put it eena fu dehn head weh dehn gwein through eena di uppa parts ahead ah dehn if dehn continue like this, yo dig. Because anything yo do comes around.”
It’s a reality that most who have chosen to participate in today’s peace march have learned to live with, including Ellis Meighan’s cross town rivals.
Brandon ‘Battery’ Smith, Leader, PIV Bloods
“I just deh out ya di march because I wahn sih betta fu Belize and di youths dehn.”
“Now I noticed you were having a conversation with Ellis Meighan earlier as well and it has been well known in the past that you guys have had your own differences between the two groups. What is it like for you to have that conversation today in light of what is happening?”
Brandon ‘Battery’ Smith
“Well we just di reason bout weh di go ahn and we di try relax same way too. He di talk bout di same thing too.”
And so are all the others who have taken the symbolic walk in solidarity from the Raccoon Street Precinct to Rogers Stadium this morning. It’s the first step towards another treaty.
Alex Underwood, Leader, South Side Gangsters
“I da di gang leader from SSG and I di try mek wahn difference eena life and work with Mr. Williams and try ease down pan di violence. I deh right side ah mi brethren right ya BT, di reason wid di man, yo check, di try hold down pan di violence because da me and he da di head, yo get di sense and once we di reason and try level out everything wah straight, yo check. So di man done tell me everything straight, me and he bless from ya, we wahn hold it down offa each other and da that we wahn deal with from ya.”
Active in this renewed effort at armistice is Jawhi, a reformed gang member who has come to Belize as a motivational speaker.
Deshawn ‘Jawhi’ Morris, Motivational Speaker
“I think it’s a statement maker for the community. Whenever you got so much death going on sometimes you’ve got to make a statement for the community to see that it’s real. I think that today was a great first start to show the community that people that normally cannot coexist are able to even walk together. That’s a great first step.”
Not only is the galvanization of the local gangs a commendable effort, it is also a cry to preserve the status quo. Since becoming the commander for Eastern Division South, Assistant Commissioner of Police Chester Williams has been instrumental in reaching out to these individuals.
“Man ahn man di act wah certain kinda way right now because dehn yer dehn di move Chester and at di end ah di day, if da man di hold ih peace da man got man outta di streets and man di go back da school, man di find job, man di go da Ms. Finnegan apprenticeship program, I noh sih weh sense ih mek fu mek dehn bring da man ya fi cohn try bring more war or more chaos eena di place than weh done di ya already, yo dig.”
It’s a sentiment that is widely held, particularly in respect of the return of Marco Vidal. He comes back as Williams’ successor.
“Part of this is that you guys want Chester to remain where he is because there is a fear, there’s a concern that if Marco Vidal comes in as the head of the south side that things may change between the relationship between the gangs and the police department. What do you feel about that?”
Ryan Davis, Antelope Street Gaza
“Well I noh got no problem with Mr. Marco right, but we rather Mr. Chester because if da neva fu Chester lotta thing mi wahn happen. People mi wahn just di send people dah jail and then people mi wah di get bex and do more thing. But dehn simple lee meeting weh dehn think Mr. Chester di do den deh da good meeting da man di do. Da wahn good thing da man di do.”
Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.