All party, but no apology

Virginia legislature’s “profound regret” (FCN, 03-29-2007)

( – Leading up to the visit of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II to the U.S. city of Jamestown, Va. on May 4, to help celebrate the “commemoration” ceremony marking the 400th anniversary of the city, there were those who felt that it would be an opportunity for the 81-year-old monarch to apologize for the en-statement of millions of Africans and the genocide of Native Americans.


Even a story which appeared in The Hampton Roads Daily Press Apr. 30 was titled: “Will queen apologize for slavery, treatment of Indians?”

Queen Elizabeth II with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney at Jamestown Settlement on the second day of her USA tour on May 4 in Williamsburg, VA. Photo: AP/World Wide Photos

However, Queen Elizabeth’s trip was filled with a whirlwind of public appearances, none of which she even attempted to speak to the murderous past of Britain’s first permanent settlement in America, whose presence wreaked long-lasting damage upon the Indigenous people, as well as the first African slaves who arrived there.

The sponsor of the recent Virginia General Assembly resolution which expressed “profound regret” for the state’s role in slavery and the “exploitation” of Native Americans, Delegate Donald McEachin (D-Henrico), was quoted as saying that it would be “a welcome move” for the queen to apologize.

“Leaders and heads of state have a responsibility to set the tone,” Del. McEachin told the United Press International (UPI). Reportedly, Mr. McEachin is a descendant of slaves.

The Speaker of the Va. House, William J. Howell, a Republican, also weighed in, according to a story that appeared in the Baltimore Sun.

“One of the things we said from the beginning is that we can’t just have this [Jamestown anniversary] be a celebration of the Anglophile,” Mr. Howell stated, adding, “It is an acknowledgement that it’s a bigger thing than a bunch of White males coming to take the land.”

Toyin Agbetu, center, foreground, is escorted out of London�s Westminster Abbey by security guards and ushers March 27, after he disrupted a service at the abbey marking the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in British possessions. �You should be ashamed,� Toyin Agbetu, 39, shouted as he ran in front of the altar. �This is an insult to us!� Britain�s Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Tony Blair were among the congregation in the royal church for the service, led by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. The service commemorated the legislation in 1807 which outlawed the slave trade in British colonies. Slavery was not abolished in those territories until 1833.

The last time Queen Elizabeth visited Jamestown was 50 years ago, when Virginia was very much segregated, so she decided to wax nostalgic: “Fifty years on, we are now in a position to reflect more candidly on the Jamestown legacy–human progress rarely comes without cost. And those early years in Jamestown, when three great civilizations came together for the first time, Western Europe, Native American and African, released a train of events which continues to have a profound social impact.”

According to Attorney Malik Zulu Shabazz, National Chairman of the New Black Panther Party, the visit of Britain’s Queen and the 400th anniversary commemoration was an “affront to the children of those slaves England imported here.”

“In her remarks she did not acknowledge the injustices to millions of Africans and Native Americans; or an acknowledgement of the role England played in our holocaust. This should be a wake-up call to us that the leaders of the White world will not give us justice. We must organize,” Atty. Shabazz stressed.

It seems that the English/American “commemoration” came off without a hitch–no arrests. But, in London there is much anger on the ground in the African community.

On April 25, hundreds of supporters gathered in front of the Charing Cross Police station in London to protest the proceedings concerning the arrest of Toyin Agbetu, a member of the Pan African organization, Ligali (

In March, Mr. Agbetu attended the celebration held at Westminster Abbey which commemorated the 200 years since England “abolished” its slave trade–Queen Elizabeth was also present. During the ceremony, Mr. Agbetu stood up and said: “This is an insult to the millions of African freedom fighters and those lost during the ‘middle passage’–by not apologizing–you shame yourself and your nation,” he yelled to the queen.

Mr. Agbetu was ushered from Westminster Abbey and arrested under the Public Order Act and taken to Charing Cross Station. He was released and told to return on the April 25. According to a press release on the Ligali website, “It was revealed that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) told police they are unable to proceed with the case because the BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation] hasn’t provided them with the footage taken inside the Abbey.”

The Ligali website continues with: “We believe the CPS is deliberately stalling the investigation in order to demoralize Toyin and discourage the community support.”

Calls to the BBC press office in London were not returned at Final Call press time.

“The community is well behind Toyin,” Thabo Jaiyesimi, a supporter of Mr. Agbetu, told The Final Call. “Hundreds of us–his supporters–gathered in front of the police station on Apr. 25, and we will be back on May 30 at 1 p.m., when he is to return,” Mr. Jaiyesimi stated.

He said after Mr. Agbetu exited from the police station, there was an impromptu march to 10 Downing Street, the residence of the Prime Minister, “to show Britain that this Brother [Agbetu] has support.”

Before the march, Mr. Agbetu urged the community to continue to enhance “our focus on the young people,” and called for a “reinvestment” of the “Rites of Passage” for young people in the community in order to instill and institutionalize a sense of responsibility to community, family and ultimately, themselves.