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December 2, 1977: a milestone day

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December 2 marks the anniversary of the most challenging chapter of the Bermuda Story in the 20th century. That weekend — December 2, 1977 — was an explosive culmination to a decade scarred by violence, including the assassinations of police commissioner George Duckett and the Governor Sir Richard Sharples, concluding with the hangings of Erskine “Buck” Burrows and Larry Tacklyn. When the dust settled following that December weekend, ten lives had been lost over those tragic years.

The anniversary is an opportunity to reverently reflect on the full historical context and all those lives lost.

That said, even a storm cloud has a silver lining. History is full of examples of tragedy leading to a better society. We recognise that out of that crisis came some forward steps:

● An end to capital punishment in all British Territories

● The Bermuda Constitutional Order was amended facilitating improved democratic principles — such as the elimination of the expatriate vote

● The Pitt Commission’s recommendations for social transformation

● An appreciation among our grassroots community for the “Lessons of ’77” has meant that social conflict in the subsequent four-plus decades, even the most challenging, has been resolved without rioting

Accordingly, in the spirit of taking transformative steps forward, we, the undersigned, mark this milestone by promoting consideration of the following regenerative, life-affirming recommendations for Bermuda’s society as we journey through the current challenges – 2020 and beyond.

⮚Support for a Restorative Justice Approach for our criminal justice system. Moving beyond the legacy of punitive approaches to the implementation of practices geared to access the best potential of those “caught up”.

Keeping the peace: a briefing on Front Street during the 1977 riots. Pictured, from left, are Lt Co. Brendan Hollis, 2/Lt Rick Barton, 2/Lt Allan Rance, 2/Lt Wendell Hollis and Capt John Bento

⮚Reframing the context of the Artefacts of Historic Punishment displayed in St George’s and other locales — Whipping Post, stocks, Ducking Stool, etc — in a way that affirms the sanctity of all.

Civil unrest: a car burns on Court Street during the riots in 1977

⮚Fostering community awareness in recognising substance abuse as a social matter, rather than as a criminal issue. Supporting efforts of those transforming the outdated War on Drugs approach into a more compassionate and rehabilitative means for addressing this complex social challenge.

⮚Promoting island-wide support for the holistic approach to addressing the challenge of those affected by the cycle of violence. Appreciating the underlying socioeconomic causes and recognising that we all have a part to play in restoring a sense of community.

This joint letter is a collaborative effort of the Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda, Imagine Bermuda, the Office of the Human Rights Commission and Social Justice Bermuda.

The letter is being supported, on a strictly personal level, by the following community members — listed alphabetically. (Reference to any organisational links are included only for the purpose of identification, but is not indicative of that group’s support):

Cheryl (Pooley) Alves, Nishanthi Bailey (president of Bermuda Union of Teachers), Arlene Brock (former Ombudsman of Bermuda), Dale Butler (former Cabinet minister), Neville Darrell (retired policeman, involved in “Buck” Burrows’s arrest), George W. Dowling III (Mayor of St George) Joan Dillas-Wright (President of the Senate); Canon James Francis, Glenn Fubler, Lance Furbert (friend of “Buck” Burrows and former town manager of the Town of St George), Ellen-Kate Horton, Charles Gosling (Mayor of Hamilton), Wendell Hollis (Royal Bermuda Regiment officer in 1977) Irving Ingram (community activist), Kim Jackson (Mirrors), Michelle Khaldun (retired civil servant); Dennis Lister (Speaker of the House), Margaret Lloyd (widow of Peter Lloyd, the Deputy Governor in the 1970s), Lynn Millett (activist), Betty-Anne (DeJean) Saunders, Donald Scott (retired Cabinet Secretary), Alex Scott (member of Pitt Commission/ former Premier of Bermuda), Calvin Shabazz, Campbell Simons (senior police officer who facilitated peace during 1981 protest), Jonathan Smith (retired Commissioner of Police); Sir John Swan (former Premier of Bermuda), Saleem Talbot (Islamic community leader), Kristin White; Lynne Winfield, David Wingate.

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Published December 02, 2020 at 6:28 pm (Updated December 02, 2020 at 6:27 pm)

December 2, 1977: a milestone day

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