Slavery protesters target royal tour in St Vincent

Earl and Countess of Wessex met with a frosty welcome amid demands for reparations

When the Queen visited St Vincent and the Grenadines in 1985, she was met with a jamboree, the prime minister presented her with a commemorative gold coin and residents lined the streets waving flags.

During a trip to the Caribbean island nation on Saturday, her son and daughter in law have received a somewhat frostier welcome.

After a red carpet arrival in the capital Kingstown, to a steel band playing One Love by Bob Marley, the Earl and Countess of Wessex were confronted by protesters calling for slave trade reparations.

Idesha Jackson, 47, was among a crowd of about 20 in the farming village of Diamond, where Prince Edward had travelled to watch athletes training for the Commonwealth Games.

She said she was there to show her “disgust and disappointment” for those who “over 400 years, had to suffer the slave master’s whip”.

“This wrong was done against a sector of the human race by another and this wrong must be compensated,” Jackson said.

Theo Thomas, 69, who travelled to the protest from the Lowmans Hill community on the other side of the country criticised his government for permitting the visit.

“It’s a shame that a so-called progressive government would be using our people as props to entertain members of the royal family and there has been no conversation about reparations,” he said.

Jomo Thomas, a former chair of the St Vincent and the Grenadines National Reparations Committee, was also among protesters. He called for reparations from Britain.

“They hunted us down, they kidnapped us, they stole us, they worked us. They owe us and they must now pay us,” he said. The protests are the latest controversy to mar recent Royal visits to the area.

Prince Edward presents medals to the T10 Cricket team at the Montreal Gardens Bloomers at Arnos Vale Playing Field.
Prince Edward presents medals to the T10 Cricket team at the Montreal Gardens Bloomers at Arnos Vale Playing Field. Photograph: Stuart C Wilson/Getty Images

Last month the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge faced demonstrations in Jamaica and the Bahamas.

And last week Prince Edward and Sophie’s visit to Grenada was abruptly called off. Grenada’s Reparations Commission on slavery had wished to meet the couple.

The next leg of the Wessexes’ tour will take them to Antigua and Barbuda, where things could become even bumpier. The local Reparations Support Commission chairman Dorbrene O’Marde has warned more protests are likely.

Protesters in Kingstown greet the Royal couple.
Protesters in Kingstown greet the Royal couple. Photograph: Kenton X Chance/I-Witness News

In an open letter, the commission accused the royal family and British government of coming to the Caribbean to “lament that slavery was an ‘appalling atrocity’, that it was ‘abhorrent’, that ‘it should not have happened’.”

“We hear the phoney sanctimony of those who came before you that these crimes are a ‘stain on your history’,” the letter said. “For us, they are the source of genocide and of continuing deep international injury, injustice and racism. We hope you will respect us by not repeating the mantra. We are not simpletons.”

In the UK, the National Council of St Vincent and the Grenadines urged the royals to rethink future visits to the Caribbean.

“We as a community feel that the royal family and Buckingham Palace must rethink the future of royal tours following previous visits, given their involvement in the treatment of people of colour,” a spokesperson said. “Feelings were running very high after the last visit to the Caribbean. What’s changed?”


Kenton Chance in Kingstown, St Vincent, and Shanti Das

The GuardianTramp

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