“The criminals threw the firebombs, but it was an irresponsible government, building owner and shop owner that made the firebombs inescapable death.”
Six died at Campus Trendz because there was no fire exit
For the last few days the papers and the television focused upon the growing violence in our society as Barbados remembered the six young women burned to death two years ago at Campus Trendz store. That is natural because everybody knows somebody who lost a friend or a sister on that day.
The man who threw the firebomb is put away in jail for six life terms. No one knows what happened to his accomplice and speculation is that the court and government are waiting for the anniversary to pass before he is given a light sentence as part of the negotiated court deals that saw no trial.
The government authorities are happy with the press coverage because the focus is on the criminals who robbed and threw the firebomb, and not upon the other criminals who allowed our loved ones to work and shop in commercial buildings with bars on the windows and no fire exits.
The press does not discuss the fact that our six sisters died because our government, the building owner and the shop owner gambled these lives away. Nobody in government thought these women’s lives were important enough to pass a building code and laws that make fire exits mandatory. That is still true to this day.
The government, the building owner and the shop owner bet that no spark, no short circuit, no forgotten cooker would set an accidental fire. They bet others’ lives and the women lost.
Memories of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire – New York 1911
On March 25, 1911 the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory caught on fire in New York City. One hundred forty six workers lost their lives when they could not escape because the managers had locked the stairwells and fire exit doors to prevent thefts. The building owners were charged with manslaughter, but were not convicted because the prosecution could not prove they knew the fire exits were locked.
In the case of the Barbados Government, the building owner and shop owner of Campus Trendz, the case is clear because there was no fire exit at all.
The criminals threw the firebombs, but it was an irresponsible government, building owner and shop owner that made the firebombs inescapable death.
“I would be a traitor to these poor burned bodies if I came here to talk good fellowship. We have tried you good people of the public and we have found you wanting…. We have tried you citizens; we are trying you now, and you have a couple of dollars for the sorrowing mothers, brothers and sisters by way of a charity gift. But every time the workers come out in the only way they know to protest against conditions which are unbearable the strong hand of the law is allowed to press down heavily upon us.
The life of men and women is so cheap and property is so sacred. There are so many of us for one job it matters little if 146 of us are burned to death.
Public officials have only words of warning to us—warning that we must be intensely peaceable, and they have the workhouse just back of all their warnings. The strong hand of the law beats us back, when we rise, into the conditions that make life unbearable.
I can’t talk fellowship to you who are gathered here. Too much blood has been spilled. I know from my experience it is up to the working people to save themselves. The only way they can save themselves is by a strong working-class movement.”
Union activist Rose Schneiderman talks about the New York garment fire to the Women’s Trade Union League, April 2, 1911 (see Wikipedia Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and Cornell University’s The 1911 Triangle Factory Fire)