Report of the Duffus Commission of Inquiry into the Breakdown of Law & Order, and Police Brutality in Grenada

Part IV

Events Subsequent to November 18, 1973

Paragraphs 146 thru 147. - THE RIOT ON JANUARY 21, 1974 [PART 1] - The evidence of Eric Pierre [Part A]

146. Mr. Pierre provided much background to the demonstrations which started on January 9, 1974 and continued regularly until January 21 and after.

He is the President of the Commercial and Industrial Workers' Union and, for 16 years, has been Secretary of the Grenada Seamen and Waterfront Workers' Union. Both Unions carry out their administrative functions at the building known as Otway House on the Carenage in St. George's.

They were part of the Organisation of 22 which was formed on the invitation of the Grenada Technical and Allied Workers Union after allegations were made of police brutality during the month of November, 1973. Most of the meetings of the Organisation were held at Otway House.

A General Strike among the unions was called on November 19, 1973 because of "some alleged brutality which took place in Grenville on the 18th. Union members got very annoyed and thought this thing should not be allowed and they were prepared to make a protest strike against this." This strike continued until November 30, and there was a resumption of work "because of an agreement and undertaking by the Prime Minister that certain things will be implemented."

Mr. Pierre said that "because the Committee felt that Government had not honoured the agreement made on November 30, 1973, there was another strike on January 1, 1973" and the demonstrations which followed from January 9 were spearheaded by Mr. Pierre's two Unions. He estimated the crowds to be about 20,000-25,000 and, so far as he knew, they were always peaceful. The demonstrations always started from Otway House and always ended there.

147. Mr. Pierre said that on Saturday, January 19, 1974 he announced at the end of the demonstration that the next demonstration [line missing]

an announcement over Radio Grenada to the effect that the Prime Minister was inviting the disbanded police aides to report at Mount Royal on Monday, January 21 and that each should bring three interested person with him.

On January 21, 1974, the demonstration was held as planned. A crowd of about 6,000 persons assembled between 9:30-10:00 a.m. outside Otway House. The crowd moved on to the Carenage, then on to Young Street and through the city. In his estimation the crowd grew to between 20,000 - [unclear] but he felt no fear of disorder because that demonstration, like those on the previous days, was peaceful and without disturbances. The crowd of demonstrators returned to Otway House around 11:30 a.m. and, as was usual, various persons were addressing the crowd to wind up the session for the day. Mr. Pierre was Chairman of the meeting.

He said that during the address of the last speaker, a student named [Finbar] Johnson, someone told him that a group of men was coming from the direction of Mount Royal proceeding down Lucas Street and that they appeared to be police aides. Pierre said that he gave this information to the crowd and advised the people to keep themselves prepared. He was later told that the men had turned into Tyrrel Street and were heading for the Carenage, but before he was able to do anything, one of the members of the Union went to the microphone and asked the people to keep calm and told them that if the men were coming in our direction "just let them pass peacefully."

Pierre was at that time on the balcony of Otway House and from that point saw the men as they passed. He estimated them to be about 400-500 in number. They were all men except for 2 or 3 women. He observed one carrying something like a placard while the others had sticks. The whole group was singing a song -

Jewel behave yourself or they are going to charge us for murder

They passed through the demonstration, and while doing so they were booed by the demonstrators. When the group reached Hubbards Motor Department, they turned around facing the demonstrators and, at the same time, Pierre saw a barrage of bottles and stones coming in the direction of Otway House.

The demonstrators scattered - some went into Otway House, others went farther, while others picked up missiles and threw in retaliation. At that point it appeared to Pierre that the affray was taking serious proportions so he went to the microphone and called for the aid of policemen whom he saw standing by the Fire Station about 300-400 yards away.

According to him, the policemen did nothing; but shortly after he saw a police vehicle with about 8-10 armed uniformed policemen drive up to Otway House. He said some demonstrators appealed to the policemen to do something, but they did nothing. Instead, the vehicle drove off, passing through the demonstrators as well as through the ranks of the group of men, and disappeared.

About five minutes after the vehicle returned from the direction whence it had disappeared and took up a position in front of the police aides. Some of the policemen pulled out revolvers and fired into the crowd of demonstrators. Some of them alighted from the vehicle and fired bullets from rifles into the buildings around the Carenage.

Pierre said the use of .303 rifles by the police caused great excitement among he women and children who appealed to him to remain with them. Together with Mr. Michael Davidson, a Vice-President of the Seaman and Waterfront Workers Union, he remained with some women and children, and from inside the office he could hear the Union office being battered, presumably by gun shots and stones, one of which, - a large boulder - came through into the office where they were sitting with the women and children. He estimated that there were about 50 persons in that office which measured 12 feet x 8 feet.

While in that room, Pierre became aware that his nose and eyes were burning and the women and children complained about the same effect and he realised that tear gas was being used. There were eggs in the room so Pierre told the children to break the eggs and rub their faces, but the discomfort continued unabated. Before Mr. Pierre went into that room he saw Mr. Alister Hughes giving a running commentary of what was going on. He also saw his brother, Leslie Pierre, who subsequently sustained a broken leg.

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