Detailed Account of the Burma Riot

Detailed Account of the Burma Riot

"Burma Road” has been described as the very first sign of a popular movement in the Bahamas, and in the 1988 memoir of Randol Fawkes (The Faith that Moved the Mountain), he features the birth of the labor movement to the 1942 riots: "As long as Fort Fincastle rests on that immovable rock in our capital city," he marked, "parents shall tell their children, and their children shall tell their own of the saga of Burma Road." For most of the Bahamians Burma Road refers to the 1942 riots over pay for the men who worked on the wartime air bases in Nassau. Two rioters were killed by the British troops, more than 40 people were incapacitated and hundreds were arrested, but those unmatched events also led to long overdue transformations. Explosives were used to puncture through the limestone hills behind the caves to provide fill for the new airfield. But there are more important parallels between what is going on in Burma today, and what took place in the Bahamas 65 years ago. In those days it was illegal for employees to “pool “against their employer. But when the airfield project began mopping up some of Nassau's unemployment, two proto unions came together to form the Bahamas Federation of Labor, which Fawkes later led. As a teenager he recalled the events of June 1, 1942: "When we reached the corner of Marlborough and Cumberland streets we heard a large shout. On looking toward the hilltop we saw hundreds of ragged black workers moving downhill towards us.. Some walked swiftly, blowing whistles. Others walked in a zig zag fashion. Some carried sticks. Others carried machetes as they sung out aloud....As the news of the demonstration re-echoed through the villages, streams of workers poured into the cul-de-sac of Bay and George Streets."

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