(JAMAICA STAR) — A heated stand-off between members of the St James police and worshippers at the Qahal Yahweh Church in Norwood, St James, ended with the leader of the church being taken into police custody, and three children removed from the compound.
The saga started shortly after noon yesterday, when a team of officers from the Freeport Police Station carried out an operation at the premises.
An officer told THE STAR that they received information that children were being held on the compound, who were in need of care and protection. The officer added that this was the third visit made by officers to the premises, after a slew of complaints about human traffiking and neglect.
“It is not the intention of the police to trample or disrupt the beliefs of these people, but residents must abide by the law. Intelligence led the police to the facility last week, where three other children were also removed from the said facility, under the child protection programme,” the officer said.
Members of the security forces came under attack when they tried to execute a warrant to remove three children from the compound yesterday, as leaders of the church reportedly used the youngsters to blockade the gates to the compound, forcing the police to call for back-up.
Subsequently, the alleged leader of the church, 39-year-old Fabian Nelson, was taken into custody on charges of obstructing an officer while carrying out his duty, assault, and resisting arrest.
Residents in the surrounding neighbourhood told THE STAR that they were happy that the children were finally rescued.
“A long time the police fi tek actions ‘gainst dem people yah. The people dem don’t sen the pickney dem go a school, and yu can see seh the pickney dem in need of good care and education,” a woman told our news team.
Earlier this year, the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) confirmed to THE STAR that they were monitoring the operations at the church, following an investigation.
“Having received several reports of alleged abuse and confinement of a female child who resides at the Quhal Yahweh, located in Paradise, Norwood, the agency conducted an investigation, including visits to the location, as well as interviews with the child, her parents, other children and school officials. No evidence supporting the allegations was found. However, following new allegations of child marriages via social media, officers from the agency, along with members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force visited the location on July 24, 2019, to further investigate. These allegations were denied. No evidence of physical abuse was observed on children’s bodies,” the statement read.