The Our Lady of Blacktip non-denominational cathedral was the site of a street brawl between scuba divers and music lovers Thursday afternoon. (photo courtesy of Dorris Blenny)
A coral reef conservation rally at a Blacktip Island resort left 11 people injured Thursday evening after two groups of activists attacked each other over a misunderstanding about the event’s purpose.
“We were out front of Sandy Bottoms’, drumming up support for the island’s reefs,” Coral Reef Activists for Preservation president Harry Pickett said. “We had our placards, and were handing out leaflets. It was a great turnout of locals and tourists. Everything was going fine.
“Next thing you know, though, there’s yahoos across the road, by the church, yelling at us about singing or something,” Pickett said. “Somebody yelled back and it just exploded from there.”
The rival protestors were music aficionados who had gathered at the Our Lady of Blacktip interdenominational cathedral to support what they believed to be an attack on the island’s community chorus.
“The radio announcement clearly said ‘choral preservation,’” choirmaster Doris Blenny said. “We got there and found an angry mob picketing outside the church. We weren’t about to lose our choir or gospel singers to those Philistines. Not without a fight.”
Island officials say the conflict escalated quickly.
“Near as I can tell, the church folks thought the scuba divers were anti-music agitators,” Island Police Constable Rafe Marquette said. “A random word set someone off, and all hell broke loose.
“The churchgoers waded in swinging their protests signs. Those things were made with good, solid maple, too,” Marquette said. “After a moment of shock, the divers roared right back at them, screaming and whomping. It’s amazing more people weren’t hurt.”
Police credit local lay clergy with restoring the peace.
“Jerrod went all Kwai Chang Caine on the whole lot of them,” Marquette said. “I know now why they defrocked him. He kept casualties to a minimum, though.”
“Neither side responded to reason,” said the former-Reverend Jerrod Ephesians. “Blood was flying and the situation needed to be defused, physically, without injuring anyone. Unnecessarily.
“Years of online Shaolin meditation training just kicked in,” Ephesians said. “I don’t really remember what happened, but once the leaders were subdued, the rest of the mob fell in line.”
Ephesians declined I.P.C. Marquette’s offer to become a Special Constable.
“We need to focus on healing the community, not on punishment,” Ephesians said. “We’re planning a reef-themed musical event for this weekend. We’ll come together to show reefs and music aren’t mutually exclusive.
“Blacktip Island’s famous for its singing coral heads, after all,” Ephesians said. “To simulate that sound on stage, the church choir will sing ‘Octopus’ Garden’ with their heads in fish bowls.”