MONROVIA – The campus-based Students Unification Party (SUP) from the state-run University of Liberia (UL), planned Flag Day demonstration has become the ‘talk of the town’ after the Liberian National riot Police were seen distributing ‘hot’ meals to protesters and passersby who had exhausted themselves for the probable cause.
This, protesters said, is a clear sign of solidarity and that the government of Liberia has begun to adhere to their rights to assemble; peacefully.
Some protesters accepted the gesture of the police as a sign of unification in a cause to strengthen the rights and economy of Liberian citizens.
Some feared it was being used as a weapon to slow their interest to want to protest against the government.
On Liberia’s flag Day, hundreds of SUP members along with their supporters outlined some reasons why the students deemed it necessary to stand with well-meaning Liberians who have been affected by the change in the economy.
Students outlined that they will never forget the many challenges, unsolved deaths, criminal mischiefs, and corruption in Liberia since the CDC-led government’s rule.
The student body said they will also keep in mind the government’s scholarship program to Liberia where young Liberians have been afforded the opportunity to obtain higher education in various disciplines free of charge.
But SUP sees the present situation in Liberia as a major situation that every Liberian needs to be concerned about.
This has been the first time the Liberian National Police has fed protesters in place of allegations of aggression and in some cases, illegal arrests and assaults.
Moreover, best practices for law enforcement response to these gatherings are changing rapidly.
This could be a result of equipment and training provided to its officers.
The right to peaceful protest in some cases could end up with supporters providing food to those rallying and even the police.
After all, the principal role of the Liberian government is to facilitate individuals’ First Amendment right to express themselves while protecting protesters and public safety.
Meanwhile, Liberia is a State party to the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 21 governs the right of peaceful assembly, providing that:
The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
It can be recalled in a Joint Statement on January 10, 2020 of the Ambassadors of ECOWAS, the European Union, the United States and the UN Resident Coordinator in Liberia, highlighting obscurities in the rule governing applications for protest permits.
This led them to urge the Government of Liberia to “clarify a comprehensive notification or application process for large demonstrations, to include what qualifies as individual, small or large group protests, timelines, permissible locations, restrictions on what can be brought to events, etc”.