The Dread Act


"Unorganized, without a political leadership or program, dreads represented political alienation at its worst and most self-destructive. For such, the price would be paid with blood."(Christian).

In November 1974, the Labour government, which was headed by Patrick John, had passed The Prohibited and Unlawful Societies Act , better known as the Dread Act. Because of the chaos that the dreads were said to have caused, it was said that the aim of the Dread Act was to 'weed' them out , and to gain support among small farmers who felt threatened. The Act drew the outrage of some in the political opposition, Twavay, and newspapers further afield when it made the killing of dreads a lawful act. Nevertheless, dreads were killed, or had their locks forcibly cut(in many cases for no better reason than being classified as a member of an "unlawful society").

Clauses Under the 'Dread Act':


According to Gabriel Christian, it was a common perception that as a form of retaliation, a few farmers were threatened or killed . And as a result, the Dominica Defence Force and the Special Service Unit (SSU) of the Royal Dominica Police Force began to take stronger measures. In several gun battles between 1975-1981 at Fond Figues, Fond Cole, Belles, and Giraudel several dreads were to be killed. About two or three members of the security forces lost their lives in a conflict which could have been avoided. It is commonly thought that many more dreads were slain in the woods; their deaths left unannounced. The remainder, with the woods now being thoroughly combed by roving patrols of joint defence force/police expeditions, fled the hills and took to the city. Meanwhile, Patrick John's anti-dread campaign had helped his March 24, 1975 election victory over Freedom (Christian).


Unfortunately for the Dreads, retreating into the mountains as a result of alienation did not suffice as an alternative. There was no initial attempt to meet face-to-face with the dreads to resolve things, instead, they resorted to violence. They did not care who were killed, although they had sworn to protect that said set of people. In the “anti-dread hysteria”, as described by Gabriel Christian, members of the Freedom party had also allied with the Labour party to impose the Dread Act. However, those who were part of the Dominican Human Rights Society sometimes condemned the government for being too quick to resort to mailed fist.