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Jamaica: Good Samaritan near death from anti-gay knife attack

Asheen Walford  (Photo courtesy of the National Anti-Discrimination Alliance and Facebook)
Asheen Walford (Photo courtesy of the National Anti-Discrimination Alliance and Facebook)

A young man who works with homeless LGBT youths in Jamaica is in critical condition in a New Kingston area hospital, suffering from knife wounds inflicted Oct. 24 by a group of anti-gay men attacking LGBT youths who have been repeatedly evicted from wherever they choose to stay.

Police removed them in January from the Shoemaker Gully drainage channel in New Kingston and sealed off the site. They stayed for a while in the area of Clocktower Plaza, but a mob attacked them there in April.  Lately they have been living near the Canadian Embassy in the former cholera cemetery.

But their presence there was recently publicized in the Jamaica Gleaner. Soon after the Gleaner’s Oct. 4 article, Loop Jamaica reported, government workers tried to evict them again. The Gleaner article apparently also prompted anti-gay attackers to descend on the area on Oct. 24, armed with knives, in a further attempt to drive the LGBT youths away. The result: A new tragedy.

The National Anti-Discrimination Alliance of Jamaica reported yesterday:

Mob Attack Leaves one Young Man in Critical Condition

Asheen Walford gives food to a homeless man. (Photo courtesy of the National Anti-Discrimination Alliance)
Asheen Walford (left) gives food to a homeless man. (Photo courtesy of the National Anti-Discrimination Alliance)

A homophobic mob attack has left one young man in critical condition, with a punctured lung and constant brain swelling.

The incident took place on Saturday, October 24, 2015 after two cars reportedly stopped in the vicinity of the Canadian Embassy where several men emerged from the vehicles, armed with knives. The suspects then began to chase and attack other men who were thought to be the homeless gay youth that were known to be living in the area. Two individuals who were not a part of the group were also badly injured, one of which has been hospitalized and in critical condition.

While the homeless youth living in the area contest that the brutal attack was not provoked, they also pointed out that public harassment and attacks have increased since the Sunday Gleaner published an article on October 4, 2015, with the headline “Homeless Cross-Dressers Living Among The Dead”.

The young man who was hospitalized has been identified as Asheen Walford, of a Papine address, who is a well-known volunteer that works closely with the homeless population in Kingston and St. Andrew. He is currently in a coma and battling for his life with a punctured lung and constant brain swelling. Doctors have stated that his chances of living are low.

 

This is an excerpt from the Gleaner article “Homeless Cross-Dressers Living Among The Dead” of Oct. 4:

Homeless man hangs up his laundry to dry in the Cholera Cemetery. (Photo courtesy of the Jamaica Gleaner)
Homeless man hangs up his laundry to dry in the Cholera Cemetery. (Photo courtesy of the Jamaica Gleaner)

Having been forcefully removed from the Shoemaker Gully in New Kingston little over a year ago, a group of homeless men, some of whom are cross-dressers, has resorted to living among the dead.

The men have made the Cholera Cemetery, which is across from the Canadian Embassy on Waterloo Road in St Andrew, their new home.

But as has been the case wherever they have settled, they are unwelcome neighbours.

“The Gores own that property, and as long as they are aware that anybody is on it, we actually get calls or some emails from them,” said Town Clerk Robert Hill.

“[The] Public Health [Department] has squared it (Cholera Cemetery) off that it no longer poses a public-health threat. It is mainly used for billboard advertising now, but there are some plans for developments there. So the persons (homeless men) have really been causing some amount of disturbance, and it is in the confines of an embassy, which may cause some sort of security issue,” added Hill.

According to Hill, his office has been working with the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays [J-FLAG], and meetings have been held with that organisation, the mayor, and representatives of Jamaica Aids Support as they seek to identify long-term accommodation for the particular set of homeless men.

Homeless man sleeps on a piece of cardboard at the Cholera Cemetery. (Photo courtesy of Loop Jamaica)
Homeless man sleeps on a piece of cardboard at the Cholera Cemetery. (Photo courtesy of Loop Jamaica)

“We are still going through the technical ramification of trying to find a location. We really haven’t found anywhere, but we are also monitoring the situation at the Cholera Cemetery and getting them removed,” said Hill.

“We know they are hanging out clothes and all kinds of things up there and causing some amount of discomfort and disquiet with the surrounding neighbourhood.”

“We have, on more than one occasion, moved them from there, and, of course, the report is that their families don’t want them and they don’t have anywhere to live,” added Hill.

The Kingston and St Andrew Corporation is also looking at lands it owns with the aim of identifying a suitable location for accommodations to be built for the group of nomadic young men.

“If we give them four or five locations within the municipality and they select the one they want, some funding agency would have to find the money, whether an international lobby group or whatever, and they find their engineers and architects and build what they wish within the permissions of the city engineer department and my department,” said Hill. …

Also:

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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