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Gombeys apologise for city brawl

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Emergency meeting: shocked leaders from Bermuda's six Gombey troupes met last night to settle tensions after fights broke out in Hamilton on Monday. Shown, front from left are Harley Place, Rieko Trott, Zane Hendrickson, Bilal Binns, Earshun DeShields, Gerkimo Gardner, Wayne Raynor and CJ Ratteray. In the rear from left are Showande Butterfield, Dennis Parsons, Kent Henry, Kinday Johansen, Jairzinho Cooper, Zaniko Hendrickson and Jamie Matthews (Photograph supplied)

The leaders of the Bermuda Gombey Council have publicly apologised after a fracas between several groups broke out on Monday evening.

Council members said that impacted troupes have “internally dealt with those that escalated tensions” and that new policies aimed at ‘“deterring antisocial behaviour” have been created in the wake of the incident.

Details of the fracas are limited, but video clips of several skirmishes taking place in the Union Street area of Hamilton have been circulating on social media.

In one clip, two Gombey youths clashed when dancing aggressively against each other.

Although that confrontation was quickly broken up, another incident caught on camera shows adult Gombeys confronting each other in the wake of impromptu “clashes” – when one troupe competes against the other, with their followers in an excited frenzy.

In the wake of the disturbance, leaders of the Gombey Evolution Troupe, Gombey Warriors, H&H Gombeys, Place’s New Generation Gombeys, Warwick Gombeys, and SMS Village Gombeys held talks last night to “discuss Gombey culture”.

Afterwards, a spokesman for the Council said: “Collectively, they wish to apologise to the community for the way that Monday night ended, particularly after such a positive day of family and community Gombey support.

“Much work has been done over the past few years to strengthen the ties between each Gombey troupe, and as role models in the community, the Bermuda Gombey leaders are committed to retaining these connections and working together to preserve the culture they all love.

“The impacted troupes have internally dealt with those that escalated tensions and all troupes have created policies to deter antisocial behaviour and promote unity within the culture.”

The Council called for people and the media not to share images of the fracas.

The spokesman added: “They ask that their friends, followers, fans and media do not share social-media content of antisocial behaviour, but instead celebrate the good parts of the holiday.

“They ask that everyone support their favourite group without negative banter against other groups.

“Clashes are a part of the Gombey tradition to showcase the unique artistry of each troupe and to celebrate that all of us are continuing the Bermuda Gombey culture.”

The Royal Gazette understands that all five Gombey troupes were performing through the city on Monday evening.

In a Facebook post this week, Harley Place, of Warwick Gombey Troupe, said: “Please note. We as captains are dealing with the issue at hand.

“We ask that you don’t assume or spread rumours of last night’s unfortunate incident. It will be handled and sorted.

In a later post, Mr Place added: “As I stated, we are dealing with it.

“We are not just trying to save a culture but we are trying to save young men as well. We have kids in all groups and as the saying goes it only takes one bad apple.

“We as a culture have come very far and if you’re not directly involved with it you would never know.

“We appreciate the criticism of our actions and take responsibility. Again we ask that you allow us to deal with it and not continue to bash the last bit of cultural expression we have left.

“Change the mindset and the culture will grow.“

A family member of Place’s New Generation Gombeys, who asked not to be named, told The Royal Gazette: “I understand that there were four groups involved. It started off with children from two groups and that was quickly stopped. But later on the adults got involved.

“This is not the first time that something like this has happened and the leaders are getting together to see if they can reel in some of the aggression that some of these groups are showing.”

The family member said that Place’s Gombeys were not involved in any altercations.

They said: “As soon as they were alerted to the disturbance, they turned around and went in a different direction.”

A police spokesman confirmed that “the matter is being looked into”.

The spokesman added: “Bermuda Police Service are aware of video clips depicting an altercation involving individuals in traditional Bermuda Gombey costume, being circulated on social media.

“We ask that anyone with information on these incidents please call 211 or, the main police number 295 0011.

“The BPS urge that should you receive the images, delete them from your device and do not share them on.”

Owen Darrell, the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport, condemned the violence.

“It is disappointing that this holiday has ended with a display of negative conduct.

“Gombey troupes rehearse and dedicate countless hours to their craft, and this action, by a few individuals, betrays the hard work put in by most Gombeys, their families, and those who support them,” he said.

Michael Weeks, the Minister of National Security, urged witnesses with information to contact the police.

“The Bermuda Police Service have indicated that they are looking into the events depicted in the video and my hope and expectation is that members of the public who were present to enjoy the day’s traditional events will contact the police and assist them with information.

“Any acts of violence cannot be condoned, and this is especially so when an evening meant to be part of our cultural tradition, enjoyed by young and old alike, descends into this kind of altercation.”