The Grenada Revolution Online

or the "Battle of St. George's"
21 January 1974

Rupert Bishop Poster
Photo, The Resource Center

Otway House
Upper Half Otway House, 2002, photo by Ann Elizabeth Wilder

Another traumatizing and life-changing event befell Maurice Bishop and his family one month after Bloody Sunday, 18 November 1973, when Maurice Bishop's father, Rupert, was shot in the doorway of an office within Otway House, home of Grenada Seamen's and Waterfront Workers Union, on 21 January 1974.

While standing in the foreground between Gairy's police and his [Rupert Bishop's] wife, Alimenta, plus one of Maurice's sisters, Ann, and many school children, Rupert Bishop was shot with bullets from a police constable's gun.

The women and children had fled into this building after the police had confiscated a soft drink bottle truck, began pelting the glass containers into the crowd starting the wave of Carenage bottle fights.

Rupert Bishop's sole purpose, in one account, for stepping outside the office was to appeal to police to let the women and children pass out of the area and go home. In another account, after the door was broken, Rupert Bishop stood up to protect the people inside. Several persons were wounded and many suffered from the effects of tear gas.

The New Year 1974

The year 1974 had started off with strikes and demonstrations organized by the Committee of 22: The Civil Service Association, The Technical and Allied Workers Union, The Seaman and Waterfront Workers Union, The Grenada Union of Teachers, The Commercial and Industrial Workers Union, The Progressive Labour and General Workers Union, The Grenada Hotel Association, The Chamber of Commerce Citizens, The Lions Club, The Taxi Drivers and Owners Association, the Law Society, the Jaycees, the Rotary Club, the Gas Dealers Association and The Heads of the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches.

The New Jewel Movement (NJM) was excluded from the Committee of 22 because they were a political group and the Committee wanted to be composed of non-partisan groups.

Eric Pierre, of the SWWU, lead the union to the strike because Gairy had not honored the agreement he made on 30 November 1973. The strike began 1 January 1974 and lasted about 3 weeks with the dockworkers striking for 3 months. Parliament passed legislation on 3 January 1974 imposing a stiff fine on any shopkeepers who closed their doors.

The Demonstrations

The street demonstrations began 9 January 1974 and continued through 19 January [Saturday, the largest at 20,000-25,000 people] and 21 January [followed by a riot and the death of Rupert Bishop].

According to the Duffus Report, these street demonstrations were "organised and spearheaded by the Grenada Seamen and Waterfront Workers Union and the Commercial and Industrial Workers Union," both led by Eric Pierre with union headquarters at Otway House in the Carenage in St. George's.

The street demonstrations had been peaceful and usually ended with an open outdoor meeting. There was singing, chanting and marching. According to the Duffus Report, "the Jewel was singing: 'Gairy must go and the Governor must go.'"

Few events in Grenadian history match the mass drama on the Carenage that Monday, 21 January when almost as a release, the explosion of the tensions on the part of the Gairy Government and on the part of the Committee of 22 members and followers.

Premier Gairy himself was centered on gaining independence from Britain in February. His intelligence sources were giving him all sorts of information, which aroused his suspicions of failing in that effort. From Gairy's way of thinking, as expressed in the Duffus Report, he acted on reasons that made sense to him at the time.

Bloody Monday Demonstrators
Bloody Monday Demonstrators,
photo from D. Sinclair DaBreo's
"Prostitution of a Democracy"

Re-employment of Police Aides

Although the police aides, interchangeably called Mongoose, Special Reserve Police or Volunteer Constables, were disbanded on 23 November, 1973, Gairy called them back. The radio announcement of 18 January 1974 became the referral point for the announcement that all Special Reserve Police were to report at Mount Royal by 8 a.m. on the 21st day of January, 1974 and each Special Reserve Police should bring along three persons who were interested in becoming Special Reserve Police. The announcement continued for the next days, and was pointedly made at the Central Police Station.

On the 8 a.m. appointed time at Mount Royal, the residence of Gairy, the police aides looking for re-employment began arriving with fresh recruits, some on government trucks. Gairy arrived around 9:30 a.m. and eventually approximately 300 men were selected. Evidently, Gairy instructed the men to report to their local parish police station and in the meantime to go to the Esplanade in St. George's for lunch at Georgi's,

While at Mount Royal reports are that some of the men were calpypsonians. They started singing a song. The lyrics go like this:

"Jewel behave yourself,
they go charge us for murder"

21 Monday, 1974 - The Demonstrations

Meanwhile, on the Carenage outside Otway House, the demonstrations began around 9:30 a.m. via Young Street winding through the City of St. George's and back to Otway House. Alister Hughes, who was reporting via tape recorder, presented this taped transcript to the Duffus Commission:

Crowd chants: 'Run away, Gairy Gairy run away
Run Gairy run boy
Run for your life boy
If the people hold you
There surely overthrow you.

(This is repeated about six times)

One section of crowd says: Gairy must go
Another section answers: Right now.

Hughes: Demonstration now reaches Nelson Street. Coming round by Royal Bank of Canada.

Crowd chants: Gairy hiding, hiding, hiding.
Gairy hiding, hiding from the crowd.

(Spells) g o = go Gairy bound to go
(Repeat three times)
He go to Guyana
He go and wuk obeah
He wuk obeah
In Guyana (Repeat)

Crowd sings the Hymn - 'Hold Forth we are Coming.'

Chorus again: Run away, Gairy Gairy run away.
G o = go Gairy bound to go

Hughes: It's now 6 minutes past 11 outside Otway House."

"Hold Forth We Are Coming" is a union song and is the title of the song listed by Alister Hughes in the Duffus Report. This union song is based on the hymn "Hold the Fort For I Am Coming." A portion of the lyrics to the union song are below:

See our number still increasing,
Hear the bugle blow;
By our union we shall triumph
Over every foe
CHORUS: Hold the Fort

Look my comrades, see the union
Banners waving high;
Reinforments now appearing
Victory is high
CHORUS: Hold the Fort

Fierce and long the Battle rages,
But we will not fear;
Help will come whenever needed,
Cheer, my comrades, cheer
CHORUS: Hold the Fort

Melody of the hymn "Hold the Fort For I Am Coming"

21 January 1974 - The Speeches

The speeches began outside Otway House after 11 a.m. by Eric Pierre; Michael Davidson, Vice-President of Seamen and Waterfront Workers Union; Mrs. Sybil La Grenade; Christopher DeRiggs; Curtis Stuart, chairman of the Committee of 22; a rendering of Psalm 23 'The Lord is My Shepherd' and words by student Finbar Johnson.

In the middle of Finbar Johnson's speech around noon, Johnson was interrupted by Eric Pierre who spoke through the microphone -

'I understand that if you look up the road now you will see them coming down. The Secret Police are coming.

(Shouts) Brothers and sisters, keep your cool, keep your cool.'

Around that same time, the Commissioner of Police Nugent David was escorting Dame Hilda Bynoe to her 2 p.m. flight to Trinidad from Pearl's Airport. Dame Bynoe had resigned/was terminated and was migrating to Trinidad.

Back on the Carenage, the crowd apprehensively observed about 300 police aides, some with cutlasses, axe handles and wood sticks, jogging down Upper Lucas Street with a path that wound them round to the Otway House crowd. Alister Hughes observed at the time that the police aides appeared to be unarmed and non-violent. The time was approximately 12 noon. It was the long route to Georgi's on the Esplanade and the police aides were singing and jumping in Carnival style:

"Jewel behave yourself,
they go charge us for murder"

As Lester De Souza told the crowd to 'just let them pass through,' the jogging men who had been on Tyrrel Street and dropped down onto Wharf Street on the Carenage, sang their way right through the center of the demonstrators. The demonstrators booed them. As the police aides passed through in the direction of Jonas, Browne & Hubbard, at the very end of the long group, there was a ruckus and fighting broke out.

At the Noon time of the riot, as termed by the Duffus Commission, Corporal Fitzroy Bedeau [currently Commissioner of the Royal Grenada Police Force] estimated the demonstrators to number 5,000 and the police aides at 300.

21 January 1974 - The Riot

The melee took place for 10-15 minutes: At first stones were thrown. Gun fire was heard early on. Then there was a bottle fight. Show windows were broken by police or police aides at and near Huggins & Co. It appears from reports there was a second bottle fight. Flambeaus or called lit-wick bottles or called Molotov Cocktails were thrown in the melee. The battle moved down toward Hubbards and up towards Otway House and down towards Hubbards again and back to Otway House with many from the demonstration watching and standing outside the telephone company or around Otway House.

21 January 1974 - The Regular Police

What regular police there were, were doing nothing - one jeep dropped off some officers and drove right through to the Central Police Station at Fort George. One or two transports came back to the Carenage. It is unclear the total amount of members of the police force on the Carenage.

Police Constable Lennard 'Darkie' Charles related this in his testimony before the Duffus Commission of a dialogue that went on at Central Police Station around 12 p.m.:

"'Sergeant 131 Joseph came out the transport and he went to the Commissioner of Police [Osbert James]. I wont' know, sorry, I don't think he was Commissioner of Police at that time, that is A.S.P. James, sorry, and A.S.P. James said 'man what is going on on the Carenage?'

He [Joseph] say, Sir, I doh know nuh.

Mr. James said 'well how you don't know, where you come from?'

He [Joseph] said 'ah come from on the Carenage.'

He [James] say 'and you don't know what is going on there?'

He [Joseph] say 'sir, them S.R.P. come from up Mt. Royal, and they passing on the Wharf dey and them Jewel men and them start something, I don't know.'

So Mr. James asked 'well, what you did?

He [Joseph] say, 'well I en do nothing, sit.'

He [James] say 'well, what you mean? You with a transport with all this amount of men, everybody has a firearm, and you see riot or whatever taking place on the Carenage and you leave and come up to the station here, well what happen?

Well, there was no explanation to the question from him [Joseph].'

21 January 1974 - The Riot Worsens

One of the more dramatic narratives on Alister Hughes' tape present this scene around 12:30 p.m.:

HUGHES: 'From where I am standing [inside Otway House?], I am looking obliquely through the window.

A crowd of 200 or 300 men, uniformed police, some with rifles.

Crowd is moving in this direction.

50 yards away from Otway House a uniformed police in front with rifle, turns around, says something to men behind him.

The men have taken bottles, they are throwing them now. [Note: On a public forum, remembrance from former newspaper editor K. Lewis is that the truck was from Holiday; the sweet drink was Red Spot]. Duffus Paragraph 152

They are shooting into Otway's establishment. I just saw a policeman shoot into Otway's establishment. They are shooting into the building.

I can still see the policeman shooting into the crowd up by Cable and Wireless. It is a uniformed policeman, he has on a grey shirt and grey pants.

There is still rifle fire outside. Out here are 50 or 60 school children, women and men are . . .

Watch out! Watch out! They are stoning Otway House. They are now shooting at Otway House. Everybody keep down low. Keep down low, keep down low. They are now shooting at us. Keep calm, keep calm, everybody keep calm. Don't go to that window if possible. Don't panic. You are safer here than outside. Keep as low as you can. Just take it easy, keep as low as you can.'

They all join together in saying the "Lord's Prayer."

21 January 1974 - Inside Otway House

At this point many people had taken refuge within Otway House, including Alister Hughes, Alimenta Bishop and her husband Rupert and one of their daughters Ann. Consequent to women and children being in offices hiding behind closed doors came the tear gas. It was then that people started going out windows, windows were broken and smoke could be seen pouring out of Otway House. People used any neutral liquids they could find to help clear eye irritation. There was noise and shooting and shouts.

21 January 1974 - Rupert Bishop Shot

Alimenta Bishop, the wife of Rupert, gave personal testimony to the Duffus Commissioners:

"Upstairs in Otway House the people were taking refuge, particularly women and schoolchildren.

Rupert sat behind the door, jamming it shut and preventing it from being opened.

Then they broke the door and, as he stood up to block the doorway, they shot him point blank, as the tear gas smothered the room and the people inside were coughing and choking.'"

Alimenta Bishop saw Inspector Cosmos Raymond coming up the steps and appealed to him for help. He got another officer [perhaps Asst. Supt. Adonis Francis] and they took Rupert Bishop to the hospital.

The Duffus Report concluded that Rupert Bishop died between 1-2 p.m. on Monday, 21 January 1974 and that an autopsy was performed by Dr. Alfred Fitzgerald Brathwaite at 4:15 p.m. the same day.

21 January 1974 - Looting

The Duffus Report concludes the following concerning looting the afternoon of 21 January 1974:

""Not the least lamentable feature of these incidents was the looting of business premises undertaken by police aides after maliciously damaging the premises of Pressey Cold Store and other businesses.

No doubt, unidentified members of the public thereafter became involved; but we are satisfied that the first steps to damage business premises and to steal therefrom were taken by police aides who formed the group convened by Mr. Gairy at Mount Royal earlier on January 21.'

Pressey Cold Store
Formerly Fred Pressey's Cold Store; now Hubbard,
2005 Photo by Ann Elizabeth Wilder

One Statement of Conclusion by Duffus Commission members

The Duffus Commission wrote these statements about the riot (among many):

"There was a large crowd of people outside Otway House before the police aides arrived. They had not foregathered for violent purposes and we are satisfied that Mr. Gairy's belief of the circumstances of the riot described by him in his evidence is not founded upon fact.

The version of the sequence of events told by Mr. Alister Hughes is, in our opinion, the truth.

We therefore conclude that members of the Police Force not only made no attempt to prevent the riot or to separate the two rioting groups; but instead aided and abetted the police aides by their unjustiable (sic) use of rifle fire and the unexplained use of tear gas, in causing public disorder and terror.'

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

" . . . In our opinion the cause of the riot on the Carenage on Monday, January 21, 1974 was the gross negligence of Mr. Gairy in despatching the police aides at the time and in the circumstances he did without regard for considerations of public order and public safety, which ought to have been the subject of consultation and advice involving senior officers of police whose knowledge of the facts should have constrained them to advise against such action."

Note: Magistrate court hearings into the death of Rupert Bishop, according to Hughes, "took place on 24th January 1975, 14th February 1975, 15th February 1975, 28th February 1975, 14th March 1975, 27th March 1975, 6th June 1975, 2nd August 1975. As of August 1977, Hughes wrote: "Six persons have given evidence; the file is incomplete."

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