On April 16, 1999, a small number of persons began to gather in Half-Way-Tree following the government’s announcement that gasoline taxes would be increased, effective immediately. By the next morning, more protesters had joined their ranks. There were a few scattered attempts at roadblocks and the streets were ominously quiet. Yet, by midday, the country was grinding to a halt as the roadblocks multiplied and uproar swept across the island. The protests continued violently for three days in what was instantly dubbed the “Gas Riots”.
The riots were successful in compelling the government to withdraw the taxation policy. Some of the protesters were still concerned about the violence and discord that had just occurred. They wanted to understand the implications of the riots and so called a meeting to discuss the matter.
Early talks focused on the frustrations of the Jamaican people, including crime, violence, corruption in the public sphere, miscarriages of justice in the judicial system, and socio-economic imbalances. There was, most importantly, a sense of an absence of fairness and equality of opportunity and the need to strive for a better Jamaica.
Though they did not yet know it, the twenty-plus people who had gathered at Anna Kay Harrisons’ home in Jacks Hill for that first meeting had founded Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ). The group held regular meetings at the Stella Maris Church Hall from then on. The number of attendees fluctuated but Monsignor Richard Albert, then a pastor at Stella Maris, always encouraged, “Keep talking. A way will open, they path will become clear.” He was right; their lively, contentious, and earnest discussions slowly resulted in an outline for a way forward.
The group decided to register as a limited liability company. On August 9, 1999, just four months after the riots, JFJ was formed. By October 15, JFJ was officially a legal entity.
This year marks 20 years since JFJ was formed, and what an eventful 20 years it has been! Our two decades of activism and advocacy has impacted change across all levels of society.
Throughout the second half of this year we are highlighting some of our achievements over the years, and as far as celebrations go, we are planning major things for our Annual Dinner & Art and Collectibles Auction to be held on September 28, 2019.
So mark your calendars and join us as we celebrate 20 years of fighting for Justice for All.