Protesters took to the streets on Tuesday as the Duke, and Duchess of Cambridge were set to arrive there the same day. Demonstrations were taken out through not only the words of the Jamaican people but also through raised signs alongside fists and T-shirts with a pair of shackled Black wrists surrounded by the phrases “Seh Yuh Sorry!” and “Apologize now!” The protest was sparked after dozens of prominent leaders in Jamaica publicized a letter demanding that Britain apologize and award its former colony slavery reparations.
The Duke of York received a letter signed by 100 of Jamaica’s prominent citizens requesting him to apologize formally. On Thursday, he came out apologizing for the British monarchy’s past actions against the Jamaican people. In his speech, he expressed his “profound sorrow” about the horrors of the slave trade, adding that “the appalling atrocity… forever stains our history”.
In his speech, the Duke referenced a similar address given by his father to the people of Barbados just last year as Barbados cut ties with the Royal Family and became a republic last November. Although the Royal stopped short at an apology, he acknowledged the “irrefutable Jamaican belief in upholding democracy and working together with other nations to support peace, security and international law.”
On Wednesday, following the Royal couple’s arrival, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness that his country wants to be “independent” and address “unresolved” issues following the protests demanding reparations for the tragedy the British monarchy ensued on the Jamaican people. After meeting with the Prime Minister, Prince William gave a speech that avoided calls to remove his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, as head of state.
For over 300 years British empire controlled Jamaica and forced hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans to roam the island under inhumane conditions. The group protesting the royal visit noted the violence and terror that the British ensued on the Jamaican people in its letter.
Tensions have seemingly escalated between Jamacia and its set dependency on the United Kingdom. However, a senior lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Maziki Thame, noted that Jamaicans have been seeking reparations for decades. “This is not a new cause,” she said in a phone interview as she prepared to join the protest. “The question is whether it will get any traction…whether the British are ready to contend with their history.”