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Both sides share memories of 1977 riots

  • Glenn Fubler (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The riots of 1977 were remembered from both sides of the barricades at an anniversary gathering to mark 40 years since the unrest.

Former soldier Wendell Hollis told how the last-minute intervention of a rainstorm quelled the riots as live ammunition was issued to the soldiers under his command.

Lance Furbert talked about his friendship with Erskine “Buck” Burrows, the fugitive who would later hang for the murders of Police Commissioner George Duckett, Sir Richard Sharples, the Governor, and his aide-de-camp Captain Hugh Sayers.

Burrows and accomplice Larry Tacklyn, whose executions on December 2 sparked riots, arson and demonstrations, were also found guilty of the Shopping Centre murders of Victor Rego and Mark Doe.

The “reflective dialogue” drew about 40 participants to the Bermuda National Gallery on Saturday, where Berkeley Institute student Tylasia DeSilva sang a rendition of Sam Cooke’s A Change is Gonna Come.

Glenn Fubler spoke of his student activism in the UK, which spurred him to begin a legal defence fund and the Anti-Hanging Campaign.

Mr Fubler and a small group of volunteers collected more than 6,000 signatures for the campaign in a petition he later presented at Westminster in the week leading up to the executions.

Mr Hollis, who led a Regiment squad to confront rioters in the Court Street area, said it was the “most traumatic event” of his life, with the island teetering on the brink”.

Live rounds were issued to soldiers, but four hours of torrential rain caused the crowds to disperse.

Mr Furbert said he got to know Burrows as he sheltered him during a massive manhunt, with the fugitive captured shortly after he left his hideout.

He added Burrows contacted him just before his execution to describe his religious transformation, which set the stage for Mr Furbert’s own spiritual breakthrough.

Mr Furbert also described his experiences as a participant in the riots and said that while the majority of the crowd was young, there were also “conservative” older people present.

He added that a new mindset to bring the community back together came after the anger had been released.

Lynn Millett gave an account of his father being charged and later cleared of offences during the “Belco Riots” of 1965

Mr Millett discussed the early 1970s culture of conflict between teens and police around motorbikes, which helped to influence his decision to join the Black Beret Cadre.

He described the first night of the riot after it was announced that attempts to stop the hangings had failed and a crowd attacked Parliament.

A statement issued by organisers said that the afternoon’s dialogue had been “only a beginning” and it was planned to build on the gathering in the future.