Who is watching the Community Watch?

Last Thursday’s article by Ciarán Barnes in the Andersonstown News focusing on a recent issue of Greater St James Community Watch bulletin (page 1, page2) has been causing a bit of a stir (Greater St James Community Watch has a reputation in West Belfast for effectiveness and independence from any external political influence). The bulletin contained an iconic photograph of armed members of the Black Panthers along with a quote from their former leader Stokely Carmichael:

“There’s a difference between peace and liberation. You can still have injustice and have peace. You can have peace and still be enslaved. So peace isn’t the answer, liberation is the answer. There will be no peace until everyone is equal.” Stokely Carmichael.

The quote carried in the ATN read:

So peace isn’t the answer”

Barnes article also contained condemnation from two unnamed residents of St James. Monday’s edition had some follow up in the letters page with two further anonymous complaints about the bulletin and a supportive letter, which had the author’s name attached, that lambasted Barnes for his partial use of the quotation.

However, I’ve been forwarded a copy of an official response from Greater St James Community Watch to the article, which hasn’t been printed by the ATN as yet. I’ll reproduce the letter below.

Ciarán Barnes’s article in last Thursday’s Andersonstown News about the Greater St James Community Watch was inaccurate and mischievous.

The Greater St James Community Watch has 137 people who have volunteered their free time to help making the Greater St James a safer place for all our residents to live.

Each of our members have their own families, children, jobs, and no doubt many hardships in their lives but they have been on the streets of Greater St James since August 2007.

The Greater St James Community Watch is not a summer scheme. We are not aligned to any political party, but the job we do is political. The Greater St James Community Watch is the people of the Greater St James and we are very much aware of the social depravation that exists in our area, and we are also very much aware of the hardships that families and Youth suffer. The Greater St James Community Watch is not a small one issue group set up to deal with kids drinking on the corner, stealing cars and joyriding. Our aim is to improve the quality, health and safety of all the members of our community and that includes our Youth. We hope that through a policy of non-aggression, education and communication, that we can hopefully reduce some of the antisocial behaviour sweeping across West Belfast.

The quote used in our letter to members, was a quote by Stokely Carmichael, a leader of the Black Panther Party. A man, who up until his death in 1979, dedicated his life to Civil Rights. The Quote reads:

“There’s a difference between peace and liberation..you can still have injustice and have peace. You can have peace and still be enslaved. So peace isn’t the answer – Liberation is the answer. There will be no peace until everyone is equal”.

The quote was totally misrepresented by Ciarán Barnes using only one line of it, implying that somehow we didn’t want peace and security in our area.

To the people who Ciarán Barnes interviewed, if the picture of black working class youth defending their area offended you, well that wasn’t our intent. If you felt so strongly about the letter to the point you thought it might damage the Community Watch, then why not bring your concerns to the Committee of the Watch? Why do we first hear your concerns through an article in a newspaper?

The Greater St James Community Watch is made up completely of volunteers. We receive no funding. We are not controlled by any political group. We are inclusive and open to all residents of the Greater St James. We are trying in our own small way to make life a little better for residents. That can’t be a bad thing.

Yours faithfully,

Ciarán Marron

Greater St James Community Watch

So it seems some people are very unhappy with Greater St James Community Watch but clearly unwilling to raise their concerns directly or to use their names when doing so and we will have to see if they turn their eye towards any of the other images of people bearing weapons and revolutionary quotes on public display in West Belfast.

  • billie-Joe Remarkable

    Is there any particular point you are trying to make in this thread?

  • circles

    Couldn’t resist – this one reminded me of the old Peter Tosh number “Equal Rights” which goes:

    Everyone is crying out for peace, yes
    none is crying out for justice
    Everyone is crying out for peace, yes
    none is crying out for justice

    I don’t want no peace
    I need equal rights and justice
    I need equal rights and justice
    I need equal rights and justice
    got to get it
    Equal rights and justice

    Everybody want to go to heaven
    but nobody wants to die
    Everybody want to go up to heaven
    but none of them, none of them want to die

    I don’t want no peace
    I man need equal rights and justice
    I got to get it equal rights and justice
    I really need it equal rights and justice
    just give me my share
    Equal rights and justice

    what is meant for Caeser
    you better give it up to Caeser, yeah, yeah, yeah
    and what belong to I and I
    you better, you better give it up to I

    ’cause I don’t want no peace
    I need equal rights and justice
    I need equal rights and justice
    I have got to get it
    Equal rights and justice
    I’m a fighting for it
    Equal rights and justice

    Everyone is heading for the top
    but tell me how far is it from the bottom
    nobody knows
    But everyone fighting for the top
    How far is it from the bottom

    Everyone is talking about crime
    tell me who are the criminals
    I said everyone is talking about crime, crime
    tell me who, who are the criminals
    I really don’t see them

    I don’t want no peace
    I need equal rights and justice
    we got to get equal rights and justice
    there will be no crime
    equal rights and justice
    there will be no criminals
    equal rights and justice
    everyone is fighting for
    equal rights and justice
    Palistinians are fighting for
    equal rights and justice
    down in Angola
    equal rights and justice
    down in Botswana
    equal rights and justice
    down in Zimbabwe
    equal rights and justice
    down in Rhodesia
    equal rights and justice

  • Mark McGregor

    Is there any particular point you are trying to make in this thread?

    Posted by billie-Joe Remarkable on Jul 16, 2008 @ 12:31 PM

    BJ-R,

    There are plenty of points in there being made by other people. I’m just airing them, providing better source material than the original article and additional elements that have not being printed. It’s up to you what you make of it, if anything, I’m not driving a narrative.

  • help

    Perhaps the real problem the republican movement has with St James is those that head up the residents association and the community watch.Bernard is doing a good job and surely pisses off his erstwhile comrades who spend more time attacking other republicans now than they do the Brits. the price for DISSENT is now very high indeed

  • paddyjoe

    when i first looked at this blog there was 5 posts. why was a post removed and another one edited? explanation please

  • fair_deal

    One post was in breach of the ball not man rule and the editing of the second was because it referred to the removed post

  • Occasional Commentor

    “They make a desert, and call it peace.”

  • Belfast Gonzo

    What’s the ATN’s problem? Every story in it is a rearrangement of the words ‘peace’, ‘liberation’ and ‘injustice’!

  • picador

    A little bird tells me that Seán Magh Uidhir has resigned from ATN.

  • constance

    i think this thread is important… the paper is not doing itself any favours especially in that area, its not the first time such a hatchet job has been made on a story. what people dont realise is the harm they are doing to their own reputation… the paranoia has made them ostricise the ordinary “joe” public who are just trying to make the area a better place for all to live. if more places had this ethos maybe the gap between us and our youth would not be as vast.