The Grenada Revolution Online

BLOODY SUNDAY, 18 November 1973

Bloody Sunday we shall never forget,
When dem rabid mongoose get out their net . . .

From the song ‘Bloody Sunday’, Mamma Cannes Group, St. David's, Grenada, 1981,
reprinted in Searle. Grenada: The Struggle Against Destablization

Prelude

Backing up to 4 November 1973, a People's Congress was held at Seamoon with thousands in attendance. The Duffus Report puts it this way:

"On November 4, 1973, the Movement held a political meeting at Seamoon near the St. David's police station. It was called a People's Congress. A resolution entitled 'The People's indictment' was passed.

Whereupon Eslee Carberry, secretary of the New Jewel Movement wrote to the Prime Minister, then Premier, and to all ministers of Government and Senators, calling on them to resign with effect from November 18, 1973, and he enclosed a copy of the resolution which was passed in the following terms:

THE PEOPLE'S INDICTMENT

WHEREAS a government can only rule with the consent of the people

AND WHEREAS a Government is the servant (and not the master) of the people and is under a moral duty to carry out the wishes of the people

AND WHEREAS the PEOPLE elect a Government to provide them with material benefits and to improve the quality of their lives

AND WHEREAS the PEOPLE expect to live free of fear, hunger, misery and exploitation

AND WHEREAS the PEOPLE have a sacred right to work in order care for their families, educate themselves and them children, house arid clothe themselves and obtain proper, adequate and cheap medical attention

AND WHEREAS the people are ALWAYS entitled to withdraw their consent and to remove a Government when it becomes clear that the Government is unable or unwilling to carry out their minimum wishes and supply them with their basic demands

AND WHEREAS the present Government of Grenada had demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt both its unwillingness and its inability to carry out the wishes of the people, many of which were stated in the Manifesto issued by the party of the Government in the last elections

AND WHEREAS conclusive proof of the inability and unwillingness of this Government to carry out its mandate to govern us according to our wishes and instructions is provided by the following MAJOR CRIMES committed by the Government against the people, to wit:

  1. The Gairy Government encouraged and openly condoned the murders of our citizens: viz. Bro. Jerry Richardson, Bro. Cummings, Bro. Lester Richardson, and Bro. Alister Saunders, among others.

  2. The Gairy Government ordered or condoned the shooting of the ten peaceful and unarmed demonstrators who were protesting the murder of Jerry Richardson by a member of the Police Force.

  3. The Gairy Government has been carrying out its plan to rule the people by fear thus hiring known criminals to brutalize people who are bold enough to oppose its corrupt Government.

  4. The Gairy Government has been using methods of malicious arrests and arbitrary searches as a means of provoking and harassing opponents of its criminal Government in an attempt to stifle dissent.

  5. The Gairy Government has squandered and continues to squander the people's money on dream projects employing political Civil Servants and squandering millions on unnecessary travel, arms and secret police while people are 'ketching hell' to make a living.

  6. The Gairy Government has abused our laws in seizing the people's co-operatives viz:. the Banana Co-operative and the Cocoa Association.

  7. The Gairy Government confiscated the People's Radio Station, and turned it into a propaganda machine for its personal satisfaction and glorification.

  8. The Gairy Government has not accounted for the spending of the people's money in the G.M. & M. W. U. from 1951 to today.

  9. The Gairy Government must answer for the arbitrary dismissal of the brave and gallant nurses who protested against the appalling conditions which obtained at the General Hospital in 1970.

  10. The Gairy Government victimized hundreds of persons in the Police, Civil Service, Estates, and among citizens generally since 1967 when it resumed office.

  11. The Gairy Government has destroyed the Police Force, and turned it into a band of Legalized Criminals. It is Gairy who has sent known criminals to associate with the Police, to spy on them, and commit acts to belittle and embarrass them.

  12. The Gairy Government destroyed Agriculture in the State. It did so by the acquisition (through spite) of highly productive estates and cutting them up into land for the landless scandal. It destroyed our Agricultural Stations, and Westerhall Farms bears testimony to this.

  13. The Gairy Government has sold out all Government lands and buildings. Quarantine Station is gone. Even the Mental Hospital and Alms House lands are up for sale.

  14. The Gairy Government has destroyed our Hospitals, and has endangered our health and lives with poor medical facilities; doctors are now afraid to remain in Grenada. There are no resident doctors in Carriacou, St. David's and Gouyave.

  15. The Gairy Government has acquired people's property in an effort to deprive political opponents of their livelihood.

  16. The Gairy Government has destroyed our roads. Our main roads are deplorable. Feeder roads can now be remembered.

  17. The Gairy Government has refused to hold public enquiries into the wanton shooting of our citizens, and into other national disasters such as the sinking of the City of St. George, and into conditions in the Police Force, Civil Service and Prisons.

  18. The Gairy Government has conspired with Brownlow and others to take away people's rights to La Sagesse and other beaches.

  19. The Gairy Government has refused to pay its dues to the Secondary Schools and the Universities. It has insulted youth by demonstrating that the Secret Police came before youth.

  20. The Gairy Government has transformed our democracy into a ruthless one-Man dictatorship. Gairy's dreams are our plans. The entire country is now run as his private estate.

  21. The Gairy Government has enriched itself among other ways by taking bubul [salaries for which little or no work was done] salaries for the entire clique.

  22. The Gairy Government has shown its complete contempt of and disregard for the people's wishes by its approach to the question of Independence.

  23. The Gairy Government has done nothing to reduce the scandalously high cost of living and by its policy of raising taxes on the essential foods and other items like rice, flour and kerosene it has increased the level of poverty in the island.

  24. The Gairy Government has increasingly been giving away our best lands to foreigners.

  25. The Gairy Government was BORN IN BLOOD, BAPTIZED IN FIRE, CHRISTENED WITH BULLETS, IS MARRIED TO FOREIGNERS AND IS RESULTING IN DEATH TO THE PEOPLE.

  26. The Gairy Government has made no effort to provide us with a sense of direction and a worthwhile sense of values.

  27. The Gairy Government has consistently neglected throughout its years in office from 1951 onwards the basic needs of the people for decent housing, adequate clothing, reliable transport, cheap and high quality medical facilities, a better quality of education for all our children, the development (instead of destruction) of our Agriculture for us to feed all our people and the denial of the opportunity to work and earn a livelihood of over half of the people. These are the gravest crimes of which a Government can stand accused and be proved guilty.

AND WHEREAS the PEOPLE of Grenada have now decided that for the reasons given above we must decide on the best course of action now open to us to save Grenada.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that a Congress of the People Meeting at Seamoon on the 4th day of November 1973 has democratically and collectively agreed to take the following actions:

(a) To pass a verdict of guilty on the charges laid against this Government and to condemn this Government for irresponsibility, corruption, incompetence, inefficiency, breach of contract, and to pass a vote of no confidence in the Government.

(b) To call upon this Government to resign with effect from 18th November, 1973.

(c) To appoint a National Unity Council from among persons present at this Congress charged with the responsibility of implementing the decision taken at the Congress to remove this Government from office and to constitute a provisional Government of the People pending the call of New Elections by the Governor to elect a new Popular Government.

(d) To agree to use the New Jewel Movement's "Manifesto for power to the people" as the basis of a new plan that the new Government will operate to run the country.

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT COPIES OF THIS Resolution of the PEOPLE'S WILL be forwarded to the Governor, Premier and Cabinet as official notice of our decisions taken today."

In addition, the issue of The New Jewel for Friday, 9 November 1973 front page reads:

CONGRESS DECIDES

  1. Government guilty of 27 major crimes against the people
  2. Government to GO by November 18, 1973
  3. On a National Unity Council to supervise the change over of Government
  4. On the plans the New Government will carry out
  5. On the steps the people will take to remove the government after November 18, 1983

In an inner page of that newspaper, Grenadians were called upon to plan for a General Strike.

GAIRY FORCES FEEL THREAT

When Inspector Belmar went before the Duffus Commission, he reported these incidents:

"In the course of his examination [by the Duffus Commission] . . . Belmar spoke, among many other things, about a report in May, 1973, concerning the theft of 50 rifles (.303) from Presentation College where they had been kept for use by the Cadet Corps.

He said he had personally recovered 20 of the rifles and had charged persons with the possession of the weapons.

He spoke also about larceny of explosives - 5 boxes at 50 lbs. per box - from Wimpey & Co., in Telescope, St. Andrew's , in February, 1974.

He said that in November 1973, Sgt. 94 Charles gave him a quantity of gun-powder, some fuses and that, apart from that, there had been crimes of arson and the smashing of show windows in respect of which some of the offenders, a minority of them, have been discovered."

Gairy's intelligence reports saw the meeting and the NJM as a threat.

From the Duffus Report:

"On November 12, 1973, in the monthly intelligence report of the Police Force the following extract is important as an indication of the information which was being relied upon by the Police in formulating plans to counter action which was reportedly a threat to the State.

The New Jewel Movement (NJM)

  1. During the period under review the New Jewel Movement in an effort to ebb Government held fifteen meetings throughout the State. At these meetings they criticised the system of Government, the independence plans, the Police and preached violent methods of overthrowing the present Government.

    They invited the public to attend their Peoples National Congress (PNC) which was scheduled for November 4, at Seamoon. It was disclosed that the purpose of the National Congress will be to decide ways and means of transferring political power from the hands of the present Government into the hands of the people headed by the New Jewel Movement and to elect members for their new 'National Unity' Government prior to their predicted success of the movement overthrowing Government.

Bishop, Whiteman, Radix

  1. Maurice BISHOP, Unison WHITEMAN Co-ordinating Secretaries of the N.J.M. and Bernard RADIX Fund-raising Secretary continued activities with the aim of overthrowing Government within the next two months. They continued holding secret meetings at the home of Maurice BISHOP. They moved the N.J.M. Office from Requin, St. David's to Lucas Street, St. George's.

  2. BISHOP commented, the aim of the N.J.M. is to seize political power from the hands of the Government and place it in the hands of the people and this must be achieved 'By Any Means Necessary.'

MATTERS OF GENERAL INTEREST

Bomb Scare

  1. On Friday, 12 October 1873 during a Parliamentary debate on Grenada's Independence Constitution an unidentified person telephoned saying that four (4) bombs were placed in the Parliament building and were due to explode at 11.30 a.m. At the time of this telephone message the Hon. Premier who was addressing the House continued his address. The building was searched by police but nothing was found, and no explosion went off.

Conclusion

  1. Stepped-up activities by the New Jewel Movement, the preaching of violence and threats to Government have clearly indicated subversion within the government.

  2. The Police with an aim to curb subversive acts have organised numerous searches and other counter measures to combat activities.

  3. The N.J.M. have realised lately that they Police play a paramount role in the State's Security and irrespective of their efforts to show the public that the Police was brutal in recent months, they are now appealing to citizens of the State to talk to the Police in order to win their support to aid them towards their endeavours.

Assessment

  1. The current increased activities of N.J.M., the daily campaigning, and threats to take over Government post a direct threat to the security of the State."

In summary, from the Duffus Report:

"The security branch of the police department was of opinion at that time as expressed in its monthly report that 'stepped-up activities by the New Jewel Movement, the daily campaigning and threats to take over Government posed a direct threat to the security of the State.'"

Inspector Belmar fully expected an attack on the Grenville Police Station, according to his testimony to the Duffus Commission. He had received information he would be ambushed, plus the Grenville Police Station attacked and seized.

Premier Eric Gairy was fully under the impression that the Jewel gave an oath on 4 November 1973 to take over the Government, that they were, according to Gairy, 'going up to Grenville to take over the Government starting with the police station . . . that the people would assemble first at the Cinema in Grenville, for getting the necessary inciting talks and so on' and after that, he told Attorney Lloyd Noel during the Duffus Commission cross-examination, the Jewel 'would carry out your plan that you made on the 4th of November.'

SHOWDOWN TIME

Like Strachan and Whiteman, Bishop was one of six members of the NJM, who on 18 November 1973, went to Grenville to hold a meeting. The men - Maurice Bishop, Kendrick Radix, Unison Whiteman, Hudson Austin, Selwyn Strachan and Simon Daniel - met at Bishop's house and left for Grenville. Their two cars were followed by Belmar, secret police and regular police.

A 'full story' of Bloody Sunday was told in an interview with Selwyn Strachan, the Minister of Information, in ‘The Free West Indian’. A portion of the flavor of one perception of the drama of that Sunday afternoon is related in the quote below by Selwyn Strachan, printed in Searle's "Grenada: The Struggle Against Destablization:"

“ . . . Inspector Innocent Belmar suddenly arrived on the scene, got out of the car and ordered his secret police to get us. His exact words were: 'Get them dogs!'”

Austin, Radix, and Daniel were able to race up the stairs to H.M. Bhola's home. Bishop, Whiteman, and Strachan raced behind a wall near the house where Belmar's forces shot at them. Then Bishop, Whiteman, and Strachan were beaten with wood sticks of heavy density [pickaxe handles] and with pistol butts.


Photo, The Resource Center

Bishop was one of the first three captured; all bleeding, all in pain and thrown into a local jail cell, 6 foot by 4 foot. Austin, Radix and Daniel were added to the same cell. Two common criminals were also in the cell.

Extrapolating and taking directly from the Duffus Report, outside the Grenville police station was an undisciplined crowd of about 150 police aides. From the report, Inspector David Andrews of the Grenville police station, gives this testimony:

   Q. It is also suggested that if the cell had been opened that the police aides were likely to venture into the cells and kill the men.

   A. Yes, sir.

   Q. . . . from what you were saying the police force at Grenville that Sunday were unable to control the police aides who were there.

   A. Yes, sir.'"

Bishop suffered from a broken jaw, among other injuries. When a police log was entered, one report noted that Austin was wearing red underwear, but the pants were discolored by the blood from when Austin held Bishop's bleeding head in his lap.

Strachan, Whiteman and Bishop were hospitalized for several weeks. Their injuries were so serious that Bishop was transferred for surgery at St. Joseph's Hospital in Barbados; Whiteman and Strachan were transferred to Trinidad, also for further medical treatment.

The story of Bloody Sunday is more complicated than the narrative above, and it played itself out in the 200 or so pages of the "Report of the Duffus Commission of Inquiry into The Breakdown of Law & Order and Police Brutality in Grenada."

Part 124. of the Duffus Report gives a partial summary:

"We are satisfied that a meeting of Grenville businessmen was arranged for 3 p.m. on Sunday, November 18, 1973 at the DeLuxe Cinema and that Mr. Maurice Bishop was the only one of the Six specifically invited by Mr. H.M. Bhola to attend. The invitation was not limited in its terms and the reasonable inference is that Mr. Bishop was responsible for the attendance of the others.

There is no credible evidence to support the alleged rumour upon which police action was based to the effect that the Six men or any one else had conspired to take over the State of Grenada on Sunday, November 18, 1973, and that the seizure of the Grenville police station was part of such a conspiracy.

There is no credible evidence to support the allegation that the Six men intended to ambush Asst. Supt. Belmar by the New Jewel Movement.

Although we accept that there was a rumour that the State was to be taken over on November 18, 1973, by the New Jewel Movement, it seems to us clear that such a rumour arose indirectly from the request made to members of the Government by the New Jewel Movement to resign by that date.

There is no evidence as to how the rumour started, and although we are satisfied that it was unfounded in fact, insofar as the ascertainable intentions of the New Jewel Movement are concerned, we are also satisfied that the Security Branch of the Police Force, members of the Police Force and the Minister of National Security resolved to take action whether or not the rumour may have been well founded."

And later in the summary -

"125. There remains for consideration the questions whether there was genuine belief in the probably truth of the rumours concerning the take-over of the State and/r the Grenville police station; or whether the alleged rumour was merely used as an excuse to justify violent and repressive action as a means of suppressing the political activity of the New Jewel Movement.

The documentary evidence supports the view that the New Jewel Movement was vigorously campaigning for a change of Government. It is clear that their attitude was bitterly condemnatory of the Government under the leadership of Mr. Gairy.

We are satisfied that the members were endeavoring to persuade the population of Grenada, including he members of the Government itself, that the Government was corrupt and deserved to be removed.

The meeting at Seamoon on November 4 provided a clear indication by the New Jewel Movement of its intention to take steps which might result in the replacement of the Government by an interim Government designed on such an unorthodox pattern as indicated a certain political naivete among the members of the Movement.

Be that as it may, the New Jewel Movement conceived the idea of a prolonged General Strike as the measure most likely to render the Government ineffective.

We do not have to decide whether the members genuinely believed that their request to members of the Government to resign by November 18 was likely to be acceded to; but we cannot resist the comment that the request manifested a lamentable unawareness of the realities of politics and political power in the West Indies and, in particular, in Grenada."

What the ordeal did was to raise the anger of part of the Grenadian community. Gairy's police actions led to an almost immediate consolidation of groups forming a coalition called The Committee of 22/The National Unity Council - including labor leaders, a few unions like the Grenada Union of Teachers, schools, all major churches, the Civil Service Association, the Chamber of Commerce,and the Rotary Club among others.

Gairy speaks about Innocent Belmar and the event of this day in his Speech to the United Nations, 12 October 1978.

Next: Bloody Monday, 21 January 1974      Back: Gairy Forces and the NJM

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