Kenneth Paul (1934-2018)
Kenneth Paul, the last survivor of four Bermuda Industrial Union members imprisoned after the pivotal “Belco riots” 53 years ago, has died, aged 84.
Mr Paul was among the group of trade unionists convicted after a violent clash with police during picketing of Belco headquarters on Serpentine Road, on February 2, 1965.
Ottiwell Simmons, a former president of the BIU during the Seventies and Eighties, said: “Kenneth was the last of four heroes.”
He added the father of four was “a lifetime comrade”.
Mr Simmons said: “Kenneth was a philosopher; he could come up with thoughts that put you back in your seat.
“He was one of St George’s most dependable, reliable bowlers for Cup Match. “We were both sportsmen, but he was a master cricketer. Kenneth was also one of the most dedicated trade unionists one could expect to find, and he showed his colours of unionism on that day.”
George DeSilva, Vivian Ming and Kerwin Ratteray were also imprisoned for assault and rioting. Robert Johnston, the BIU president, was arrested and released and Barbara Ball, the BIU general secretary, was among those tried and acquitted.
Mr Simmons said the Belco strike that sparked the riot started over “a simple matter of union recognition”.
He added: “There was a refusal to recognise that the union had a right under the law to have a secret ballot to determine whether workers wanted representation or not.
“There was also racial discrimination practised by Belco with respect to black and white workers. Kenneth was operating in that environment, along with his three colleagues that ended up as prisoners. I believe sentences ran up to two years.”
Mr Simmons blamed the morning’s violence on riot police who confronted union demonstrators.
He said: “Before it ended, there was a hand-to-hand battle between police and some of the picketers.
“By the time I got to the western gate of Belco, Kenneth was bleeding profusely from his head. He was dazed and having difficulty balancing.
“That brought sadness to me, because I was one of the designers of the picketing, looking to find victory.”
The union members retreated to Devonshire Recreation Club in the wake of the violence.
Mr Simmons said Mr Paul and others “went on trial and were all sentenced to jail”.
He added: “Kenneth was very shaken up. He was a good family man, with a wife, Marion, and four good children.
“It brought tears to a lot of peoples’s eyes, but we were fighting for our rights. When he came out of prison, Kenneth stood by the same principles.”
Retired police officer Andrew Bermingham, who was 23 at the time, was among the police injured in the battle.
He said that Mr Paul was “one of those that assaulted me; he got a year for that”.
Mr Bermingham added: “There was no anger. I was a young policeman and he was doing what he thought was right. He and I shook hands in the intervening years.”
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