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Plantation Friends, located on the east bank of the Berbice River, was a flourishing sugar estate at the beginning of the twentieth century. In early 1903 the workers, most of whom were indentured Indians, asked the estate manager for an increase in the payment for preparing beds to plant new cane tops. A worker received at that time a payment of 40 cents for each bed that was prepared. After the manager refused this request, a strike resulted, and on the 6 May 1903, a large group of striking workers went to New Amsterdam to state their grievance to the Immigration Officer.

The manager of Plantation Friends also met with the Immigration Officer and firmly denied that the workers had ever asked for an increase in wages.

He then proceeded to make a formal complaint to the magistrate, Mr. Brummell, that four of the striking workers had threatened to kill Gooding, his overseer. The magistrate issued a warrant for the arrest of the four men but the men were not immediately apprehended by the police.

Magistrate Brummell also ordered the striking workers to return to their jobs on the plantation. He suggested that after the period of work was completed, the matter of a pay increase should be settled by arbitration.

The impending arrest of the four men clearly upset the other workers who refused to obey the instruction of the magistrate and continued the strike on the 7 May. The manager, in the meantime, had requested police support, and early that morning 25 armed policemen arrived from New Amsterdam to confront the striking workers. The manager instructed the police to arrest the four men for whom warrants had been issued. As the four workers were held by the police, the crowd protested loudly and demanded their release. Some of the workers in the crowd became disorderly, and two of them were arrested. As the six arrested workers were about to be taken by the armed policemen to New Amsterdam, the crowd surged forward and tried to free them. However, the policemen kept the protesting workers back by pointing their bayonets at them.

By this time Magistrate Brummel had arrived on the scene, and as the crowd pressed forward, he read the Riot Act and ordered the police to fire a warning volley in the air. The angry workers responded by throwing bottles and stones at the police who opened fire at them. The result was that six workers were killed and seven seriously injured.

The shooting and killing caused the crowd to wildly disperse and eventually to quell their protests. A coroner's inquest into the killing blamed the striking workers for causing the disturbance, and complimented the police and the magistrate for their "administrative tact". The magistrate himself, in giving evidence at the inquest, supported the shooting the workers. He stated that the policemen were justified under the circumstances in firing on the crowd and that he would have been guilty of a gross dereliction of duty if he had failed to give the police orders to fire.

The coroner sharply castigated the Immigration Agent for not visiting Plantation Friends before the tragic event even though he knew of the existing labour problem. The coroner noted that the Agent's presence at the plantation on the morning of the 7 May could have prevented the arrest of the six men and thus averted the disturbances that preceded the shooting.

The six men who had earlier been arrested were charged with riotous behaviour, and during their trial, they were defended by an African lawyer, S. E. Wills. However, all six men were convicted by the same magistrate who supported the shooting. A Congregational minister, Rev. Henry John Shirley, openly sympathised with the Indian labourers, while the Governor, James Swettenham, stated that he was not satisfied with the conduct of the manager of Plantation Friends. He insisted that if the manager was not dismissed, he would remove all the Indians from the estate.