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Residents attack Jamaican police station

Associated Press, USA
Sep. 18, 2003 • Friday September 19, 2003

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — A mob blocked roads and threw stones at a rural Jamaican police station, demanding authorities turn over a woman accused of practicing witchcraft on college students, authorities said Thursday.

No one was seriously hurt during the Wednesday clash in rural Claremont, about 48 miles (77 kilometers) northwest of the capital, Kingston, police Constable Courtney Johnson said.

The disturbance began when about 50 residents in the nearby farming town of Rural Retreat stormed the house of local pastor Eleanor Brown.

They accused Brown of luring college students into a summer church camp and brainwashing them with Obeah, an Afro-Caribbean religion that mixes shamanism with witchcraft.

They said one 19-year-old woman who had participated in the camp had gone missing, but later found her dazed but unharmed in a nearby community after Brown provided an address to locate her.

Brown escaped injury by locking herself in a room until police arrived and brought her to the Claremont police station. Hours later, a crowd of about 100 locals marched to the compound and demanded that Brown be handed over.

“They were quite serious,” Johnson said. “That’s Jamaican justice.”

Police used tear gas to disperse the mob, which pelted the station with rocks and bottles, breaking several windows at the station. Other residents blocked roads with trees felled by chain saws. No arrests were made.

Mob violence is common in parts of Jamaica’s countryside, where superstitions about witchcraft and the occult run deep.

Police moved Brown to a nearby community for her safety, Johnson said, but did not give details.

As many as 16 students participated in her camp, which performed community services and ministered to locals.

Johnson said police would not likely charge Brown with any crime, since the missing woman left home willingly and was not harmed. No other students have been reported missing.

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