The Grenada Revolution Online

Bishop Speech - Address Given by Prime Minister Maurice Bishop at the International Airport Site to Commemorate Jeremiah Richardson Day, Sunday, April 18, 1982 -
Part One - Jeremiah Richardson


Comrades of the Political Bureau and Central Committee of the Party,

Comrades of the People's Revolutionary Government,

Distinguished comrades on the platform,

Beloved Sisters and Brothers,

Comrades of Free Grenada,

Comrades today, needless to say, it is a very significant and historic day. It is a day that we attach very special importance to, because today, what we are celebrating, what we are commemorating and also what we are witnessing, amounts to an extremely important combination of events.

First of all comrades, today we are very, very happy to have with us in Grenada, by now I believe, about 60 journalists from Latin America and the Caribbean, attending the First Conference of Caribbean journalists, and I want you to give them a very loud and warm round of applause.

THE MILITARY BASE PROPAGANDA

We are particularly happy, comrades, that these journalists are here with us, not just in Grenada, on our soil, but that they have the opportunity of being here today at this International Airport site, because one of the things that all of these journalists would have heard about, over and over again, is how this International Airport site is really a military case and how we are putting down here a base that we will use to attack America oil tankers when they pass in the waters near our country and how this place will also be used to attack neighbouring islands.

So I am very certain, comrades, that these journalists will be very happy to be here with us today, to have the opportunity to see that what we are doing, while it is a miraculous piece of work, in terms if it's construction and engineering aspects, that nonetheless, all it really amounts to is a new International Airport that, in the end, will have 9,000 feet.

An airport that we have struggled for, an airport we are determined to build, an airport we will definitely see being finished next year, an airport that all our people want. It is good for our journalistic friends to be here with us and to see the extent to which this project means so much to all of us in Grenada.

We have among these journalists, comrades, the leaders of the International Organisation of Journalists, of the Federation of Latin American Journalists, of the Presa Association of Jamaica, of the Cuban Union of Journalists, and also, at the same time, dozens of other journalists who may not as yet belong to any formal journalists organisation.

And these comrades, being here with us at this time, also help to remind us of the second main reason why today has such significance for us. This important gathering of our people is that it comes exactly 21 years after the people of Cuba would have been involved in defending their country, because all of us would remember that on April 16, 1961, 21 years ago, mercenaries and counter-revolutionaries assisted by United States imperialism landed on Cuban soil, with the intention of trying to roll back and destroy the Cuban revolutionary process. And instead, as we know, what happened to them on that day is that, 21 years ago, the Cuban people, under the leadership of Fidel Castro, inflicted a sound licking on United States imperialism, and today we certainly want once again to recall that fact.

JUST AN ORDINARY YOUNG MAN

Today, also, comrades, is another anniversary of the commemoration of the brutal murder in 1973 of one of our young comrades, Jeremiah Richardson. Young Jeremiah Richardson, comrades, was just an ordinary Grenadian youth, a young man in his early 20's, a young man who did not belong to any political organisation or party, a young man who was not active in politics in any way; a young man like so many other young men of that time, who was unemployed and basically without much hope of getting employment. But a young man like so many young men of that time who, although being unemployed, was always concerned to try to find some kind of work to do because young Jerry Richardson, the eldest of six children, was in fact the main bread-winner for his home, a young man without regular work, having to support his family. And this young man, in fact, would find work from time to time as a porter at the airport in Pearl's, working with LIAT or sometimes as a carpenter.

Young Jerry, in common with the other young people in 1973, naturally knew how to have a good time in between all the hardship and the pressure. And, on that fateful Good Friday night of 1973, on April 20, young Jerry Richardson, together with his friends, decided to go and hold a cook-up of some crayfish, which they had caught during the day. So they went and they had their cook-up, and after they were finished, they decided to go to the cinema in Grenville.

And while these comrades were at the cinema, one of their number came into the cinema to say that there was a policeman who was chasing one of their friends to beat him up. And these other young friends decided to go outside to see what was happening.

And when they got outside, this particular policeman came up to them and said that he wanted them to disperse, to break-up that he was not answering any questions, that he didn't want them around Grenville town.

And young Jerry, who was a brave youth, asked the policeman why it is that they had to break up. And the answer of that particular robot was to hold Jerry in his neck pull his gun from out of his pocket, rest the gun against the temple of Jerry's head and, at point-blank range, blow his brain out.

Here was a young man murdered for no reason at all. Here was a young man whose only crime in Gairy's dictatorship, was that he was a poor young man and it has always been a crime to be poor for Gairy. Because to be poor under the days of Gairy meant that you're always a target for police or other sections of the armed forces brutality.

JERRY WAS NOT THE FIRST

Jerry Richardson was not the only man to have been shot; Jerry Richardson was not the first young man to have been brutalized; Richardson was not the first young man to have to suffer because he was poor; but when that shooting took place, he had an effect that was different than usual.

Because the people of our country decided that enough was enough; because the people of Grenville, in particular, decided that they must have an explanation for this particular brutality, that they were not going once more to just turn the other cheek and to accept yet another young life being snuffed away. And, therefore, the people of Grenville mobilised and organised and eventually became a huge wave of protest.

Fortunately for the people of Grenville, fortunately for the people of our country, just one month before that Good Friday, in 1973, another very historic event had taken place, an event which was to change the life of all of the people of this country forever. Because one month before Good Friday 1973 on March 11, 1973, our glorious party, our vanguard party of the working and poor people of our country, was formed. And as a result, comrades, the difference on that occasion, the main difference, was that here was a party at last, here was a serious organisation of our people, that was able to help organise the people of Grenville and to channel their protest.

Here was an organisation rooted in the people, an organisation that the people had confidence in, an organisation of young leaders, at the time, who were full of courage, and who were not concerned about the extent of sacrifice which had to be made. And, therefore, when our party leaders arrive in Grenville the next day, when the news was heard on the Saturday, we were able immediately to pull together the people of Grenville and to march to the police station to demand an inquiry from the police station, to demand that the offending policeman be arrested and charged for murder.

And when it became clear that no action was going to be taken by the police or by the Gairy dictatorship, the people of Grenville, together with our party, on the Sunday after Jerry was murdered, moved to the airport, moved to Pearl's Airport and closed the airport down for three days.

JERRY WAS THE SPARK

Jerry Richardson was the spark that led to that airport closure, Jerry Richardson was the catalyst that led to the famous 1973-74 uprising, the revolutionary period of .73, 74 that, in itself, was the main forerunner of March 13, 1979.

Jerry Richardson will always live in our memory and will always go down in history as having been the first major spark that led to those events that were to follow, because after Jerry Richardson's murder on that Good Friday, one can say with confidence that Grenadians have never been the same since.

The People's Convention on Independence in May 1973 was an occasion when our people remembered Jerry Richardson, the People's Congress on November 4, 1973, when the government was called upon to resign, was another occasion that our people saluted the memory of Jerry Richardson. November18, 1973 Bloody Sunday in our history, when six of our leaders were brutalised by Gairy's Mongoose Gang and criminal armed forces, that was also an occasion when our people reflected on Jeremiah Richardson, and right throughout all of the street marches of January 1974 when 20 and 30,000 of our people would march every day for three weeks, calling on Gairy to resign, every day that we marched, we remembered Jeremiah Richardson. Jerry Richardson, therefore, is a genuine martyr of our people and of our people's cause.

But, comrades, on that occasion when Jeremiah Richardson was killed, in that occasion when the airport was closed as a result of Jerry being killed, what we were doing there was using Pearl's Airport so as to fight for the right to life itself. The airport became a symbol of the fight of our people for the right to life and to basic fundamental freedoms.

EXTENDING THE RIGHT TO LIVE

Today, in contrast, by being down here in so many of our thousands, what we are doing is not demonstrating any fight for the right to life but instead we are demonstrating an extension of the right to life. What we are doing down here at the airport instead is extending the life of our people. Because, what this airport project will mean to us is more economic development, and more economic development in turn means more benefits for all of our people. The airport today, and this airport rally, therefore, also links in with the Jeremiah Richardson ques6ttion, with the closure of Pearl's Airport nine years ago, because we are moving now from closure to an opening.

One of the things we are going to have today, is the formal ground-breaking ceremony for the new terminal building, which will start being guilt in just a few weeks time. And that ceremony is itself going to remind us, once again of the extent of the struggle that our people and our government have had to put up to see this international airport project reach to the stage where it has reached.

Jeremiah Richardson's life was a life of struggle, but it was also a life of achievement, because, in dying he helped to vitalize and energize the struggle of our people and therefore to lead to our eventual victory in March 1979. This international airport project is also a project that has been characterized by struggle. We have had a really massive struggle to get this project going.

Part Two of the speech concerns the International Airport Project

NOTE ON JEREMIAH RICHARDSON - Jeremiah 'Tall Twelve' Richardson was murdered at Jubilee Street, Grenville on Good Friday, 20 April 1973. Zephrine Charles, former RGPF, was convicted of his murder on 31 October 1973.

     

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