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Theatre Boycott heroes return

Then and now: members of the Progressive Group outside the former site of the Island Theatre. Gerald and Izola Harvey, left, with Edouard Williams and William “Will” Francis (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

Quiet heroes who joined forces to smash segregation looked back 60 years yesterday to the major turning point in the country’s history.

Members of the Progressive Group joined Glenn Fubler of community group Imagine Bermuda outside the site of the former Island Theatre, one of the cinemas forced to integrate by the Theatre Boycott of 1959.

Gerald Harvey, with his wife, Izola, said: “It was peaceful. That’s what we emphasised. There was no violence.”

They were joined by Progressive Group members Edouard Williams and Will Francis on the corner of Wesley Street in Hamilton, where a plaque on an office block commemorates the boycott.

Mr Fubler said the protest, which started in June 1959, removed segregation from Bermuda’s cinemas through “peaceful people power”.

The movement spread and today marks 60 years since hotel owners declared an end to discrimination in their dining rooms and clubs. Restaurant owners followed suit the next day.

Theatres closed because of a massive drop in takings and reopened on July 2, 1959 with desegregated seating.

Mr Fubler asked the public to observe a “roll call” this weekend and to make themselves familiar with the members of the Progressive Group.

He asked for drivers to commemorate the anniversary on Tuesday by turning their headlights on as a show of respect for the “the peaceful action of ordinary people”.