Super Cat’s Great Escape: How Dancehall Legend Dodged Clarks Bootie Crackdown

Dancehall legend Super Cat narrowly escaped being among the scores of young boys and men who were detained during one of the most-talked-about police raids on a Dancehall event, back in the early 1970s.

The daring escape unfolded during a crackdown led by then Superintendent Joe Williams, who reportedly had a habit of targeting attendees sporting Clarks shoes, under the dubious rationale that wearing the British footwear indicated that they were involved in criminal activities.

According to the Wild Apache, Superintendent Williams interrupted the festivities, which reports say were being hosted by Sir Coxsone Dodd, by instructing the selector to turn down the music, before going on to single out attendees sporting Clarks footwear, ordering them to assemble on one side of the venue, supposedly for imminent arrest.

Recalling the real-life drama in a 2015 Reggaeville interview, Super Cat, who was a young boy at the time of Superintendent William’s intrusion, revealed how he managed to deftly slip through the dance gate like a true feline, unnoticed by the law enforcement officers.

“I was listening to VJ the Dub Master when Joe Williams came to lock up everybody and said “Guys in Clarks, this way, barefoot guys that way’ and then all of a sudden, everybody was barefoot.  So Joe Williams said: “We have a way to sort this out – lock up all those Clarks and everybody who doesn’t have shoes is going to jail,” the Dem Nuh Worry We artist had said.

“I was the only one who escaped because I was a youth so they weren’t seeing me slipping out through the dance gate running from VJ the Dubmaster, who was one of the greatest sounds I ever listened to because that was the only sound where the sound boxes would walk around if they didn’t tie them down with hemp rope,” he added back then.

That raid, while undoubtedly a tense moment for the young men, has since become the subject of fascination and intrigue within Jamaica’s Dancehall circles.  

One Love Books’ founder Al Fingers, during his undertaking of a compilation of tracks dubbed Clarks in Jamaica, which documented the longstanding relationship between Jamaicans and the British brand, had interviewed DJ Trinity, who recalled his own experience with the police who said to him on one occasion: “You must be a thief, how else could you afford such expensive shoes?”

“From the late 1960s, the shoes became popular among the gangs of Kingston and there was even some practicality for them wearing it,” a Gleaner article noted.

The publication also recounted producer Jah Thomas telling Al Fingers that: “When you have on Clarks, nobody nah hear you come. They’re so silent when you walk – cheese bottom dem call it – you don’t see a man squeeze up on you, you nah hear him when him ah come”.

According to the article, among the dons who sported Clarks in the 1960s and 1970s were Claudius Massop of the Shower Posse, Aston ‘Bucky Marshall’ Thompson of Matthews Lane and Howard ‘Curly Locks’ Hewitt from Rema.

As a consequence, it was “not long before black inner-city youths were targeted by the police because of their footwear. See, in their eyes, these poor boys from Jamaica should not be able to afford this British shoe, so they have to be dealing with criminal activities to afford a pair or even stole the shoes,” the article noted. 

The Gleaner article had also alluded to the same event from which Super Cat escaped, where Superintendent Williams corralled Clarks-clad attendees to one side of the venue to face the long arm of the law.

“As such, the arrest of black men wearing Clarks occurred across the Kingston and St Andrew, specifically West Kingston. There is one noticeable incident during this time of a police tactic whereby police officers, led by Superintendent Joe Williams, raided a Sir Coxsone dance. He reportedly told the DJ to turn down the music and then declared:  ‘All who’s wearing Clarks booty must go on that side of the dance, stand up over here suh. And who’s not wearing Clarks booty must go on this side,” the publication noted.

“As reported, many men went shoeless that night having taken off their shoes to join the no-wearing Clarks line. Still, this continued throughout the years and by the early 1980s, the tactic was still being used. Noted criminologist and expert on Jamaican gangs, Dr Claude McKay, recalled his father, Ronald McKay, using similar tactics to raid dances and cinemas as a member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force Eradication Squad in the early 1980s,” the article stated.

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