Liberia: Civil Society Cautions Government to ‘Stop Brutalizing Peaceful Protesters’
Monrovia – The National Civil Society Council of Liberia (NCSCL) has called on the Government of Liberia to stop brutalizing peaceful people and stop quelling peaceful assemblies with violence.
In a release issued in Monrovia over the weekend, the NCSCL, through its Chairperson, Mrs. Loretta Pope-Kai said the continuous practice of teargassing peaceful protesters who usually gather to petition their government or express solidarity in support of a friend or a leader is increasingly becoming common place and unacceptable.
“The most recent example is the naked and brutal manner in which the Liberia National Police responded when sympathizers, well-wishers and friends of Mr. Alexander Benedict Cummings, political leader of the Alternative National Congress (ANC) had peacefully assembled in solidarity with their political leader,” the Council said.
It continued: “This naked application of raw force on women and young people expressing their love for their leader has captured our attention and in our view, it is repugnant and uncivilized. The Constitution of the Republic of Liberia guarantees and provides support for the free gathering of people, once peaceful and civil.”
Anti-riot police last Tuesday fired tear gas at supporters of the opposition ANC as they tried to disperse hundreds of people who had gathered against an ongoing criminal proceeding involving their political leader, Alexander Cummings.
Cummings, his party chairman Senator Daniel Naatehn and Secretary General Attorney Aloysius Toe, are on trial before the Monrovia Magisterial Court having been charged with “forgery and criminal conspiracy.”
Protesters marched through the Temple of Justice and Capitol building, chanting and singing songs calling for fair trial of the ongoing criminal proceedings, before police doused them with tear gas.
As police fired tear gas, protesters lost several valuables, including mobile phones while escaping the scene. A FrontPageAfrica reporter on the scene also saw women and a baby in an unconscious state.
Responding to the incident, the NCSCL said the police’s action against the protesters amounts to abuse and violation, when their right to peaceful assembly is infringed upon by and through brutal and violent response from the state.
The Council , in the statement stated that those coming out in solidarity with Mr. Cummings have been calm, civil and peaceful and under such conditions, the rules of engagement do not allow the state to respond in violent and unfriendly manner, especially using brute force that inflict naked harm and pain on harmless and armless citizens. Restraint and civility are key components of policing that are grievously required in handling solidarity matches, especially when the state is not provoked, the statement stated.
“But sadly, in most cases, it is the state that provokes pandemonium and then in the end, brutalize our people. This must stop and the administration of the Liberia National Police needs to understand that they are not operating in vacuum or somewhere in the jungle where might is right. We live and act in a civilized society, where the law takes precedence over the gun and where wisdom and reasoning supersede lawlessness and jungle justice.”
Meanwhile, the Council has called on the Government of Liberia to take responsibility for the wounded and the injured and ensure that all those who got manhandled during the standoff caused by the Police are treated to full and complete recovery.
It further called on the Police to desist from applying brutality whenever it is called to handle peaceful protests and demonstrations. The Council also cautioned citizens to remain law abiding and be encouraged to stand up for their rights irrespective of the suppression and intimidation they have to deal with.