Persecution of Rastafari

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Persecution of members of the Rastafari movement, a group founded in Jamaica in the early 1930s and who worship Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia as Almighty God, has been fairly continuous since the movement began but nowadays is particularly concerning their spiritual use of cannabis, a psychoactive drug illegal almost everywhere in the world.

The first Rastafari to appear in a court was Leonard Howell in Jamaica in 1934 who was charged with sedition for refusing to accept George V of the United Kingdom as his King, instead insisting that he was only loyal to Selassie I and Ethiopia. He was found guilty and sentenced to several years in prison.[1]

By the 1950s, Rastafari's message of racial pride and unity had unnerved the ruling class of Jamaica, and confrontations between the poor black Rastas and middle-class police were common. Many Rastas were beaten, and some killed. Others were humiliated by having their sacred dreadlocks cut off. In 1954, the Pinnacle commune was destroyed by Jamaican authorities.

Attitudes began to change when Selassie I visited Jamaica in April 1966. The popularisation of Rastafari through reggae music, and especially through the fame and near-heroic status of Bob Marley have made the Rastafari far more acceptable than in past times, though their use of cannabis remains a major point of controversy.


  1. ^ Louis Ea Moyston (23 February 2002). "Leonard P Howell, universal prophet". The Jamaica Observer. Archived from the original on 16 March 2008. Retrieved 1 October 2010.