Peter Tosh's Youngest Son Comatose Following Jail Beating; Family Files Civil Rights Suit

AP Photo/Mel Evans, File
Jawara McIntosh, son of Peter Tosh, sings a song as he stands with a large gathering in front of the New Jersey Statehouse on April 20, 2014 in Trenton, N.J. 

Jawara McIntosh is in a hospital following an attack inside New Jersey's Bergen County Jail.

Jawara McIntosh, the youngest son of reggae legend Peter Tosh, lies comatose in a Boston hospital following an attack inside New Jersey's Bergen County Jail, where he was serving a six-month sentence for cannabis-related charges. 

According to a press release issued by his family on June 22, McIntosh, a reggae artist in his own right known professionally as Tosh 1, was brutally beaten and sustained traumatic brain injuries on Feb. 21, 2017 while in the care of the Bergen County Jail. That same day, Jawara's mother, Melody Cunningham, received a call from New Jersey's Hackensack Medical Center informing her that Jawara needed immediate surgery to save his life, resulting from the ordeal. 

The release did not specify what the circumstances were surrounding the beating or who was responsible.

Cunningham and Jawara's nine siblings, including his sister Niambe McIntosh, administrator of the Peter Tosh Estate, will pursue a civil rights lawsuit against the Bergen County Jail "for directly participating in and/or failing to prevent Jawara from being beaten into a coma while in their custody." 

The McIntosh family is calling on the U.S. Justice Department to investigate; they have retained civil rights attorney Jasmine Rand who has represented the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown in their cases and local counsel Shelley Stangler, who has handled numerous civil rights suits.

According to previously published reports, on June 15, 2013 Jawara McIntosh's rental car was pulled over by New Jersey police who allege that open bottles of alcohol were found on the front seat and that McIntosh was under the influence. A search of McIntosh's car found suitcases in the trunk filled with more than 65 pounds of marijuana. Police charged McIntosh with intent to distribute, two counts of driving under the influence, driving with a suspended license, improper passing and having an open container of alcohol in the vehicle.

Mahwah New Jersey Police Chief James Batelli said McIntosh had an arrest record that included charges for "disorderly persons offenses, assault, resisting arrest and promoting prostitution." However, a group called Cannibas Patriots Unite (CPUnite.org) refuted Batelli's allegations, calling them "slanderous and completely without merit".

Like his late-father, McIntosh is a practicing Rastafarian and a staunch advocate for the legalization of marijuana, which Rastas regard as a holy, healing herb. Within the ganja-championing reggae genre, Peter Tosh (born Winston Hubert McIntosh) is regarded as the most vociferous crusader for marijuana's legalization; he extolled the plant's healing properties decades before medicinal marijuana became a reality. 

The title track to Tosh's debut solo album Legalize It (Columbia), released in 1976, when such views were considered fringe, stands as a rallying cry for the current decriminalization/legalization movement throughout the US. A founding member of the (original) Wailers, along with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer, Tosh and Marley, co-wrote the anthem of insurgency "Get Up Stand Up", which has been adapted to various freedom struggles across the globe. In his lifetime Tosh endured severe beatings from the police for his uncompromising stances, which included rallying against the South African Apartheid regime, preaching equal rights and justice for all and championing nuclear disarmament. Tosh's No Nuclear War (EMI) received a posthumous Best Reggae Album Grammy in 1988. On Sept. 11, 1987 Tosh was murdered, along with two friends, in a robbery at his Kingston home.

Jawara McIntosh was heavily inspired by his father's legacy and his family vows to continue their pursuit of equal rights and justice. "Our family will fight harder now than ever to Legalize It. We know that our father is here with us today strengthening our voices to fight for his son Jawara, and for our brothers and sisters throughout the world in jail, brutalized, or murdered over an herb that has the power to heal nations."


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