MONROVIA – Liberian police officers Tuesday fired tear gas at supporters of the opposition Alternative National Congress (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 proceeding, before police doused them with tear gas.
One supporter of ANC only identified as James told newsmen the tear gas also got into his eyes.
“They started shooting tear gas at us and chasing people who came here to ensure our political leader get a fair trial. All my eyes are full of teargas,” he said.
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.
Cummings has appeared in court twice to face alleged criminal charges against him, but his supporters claimed the trial was “turning political” and needed to appear to fend off attempts to have him jailed.
Before the police incident, ANC’s Vice-Chairman, Rev. Josiah Kennedy in a conversation with FrontPage Africa, said tsupporters were rallied by auxiliaries of the party to send a signal that they will not accept any unfair trial.
He alleged that the Weah-led government was trying to use the court to delay the proceeding so that Cummings would be prevented from not engaging citizens across Liberia on his manifestos.
However, he said Cummings is now viewed as “possible option” to replace the current government for which he is being suppressed by the legal proceeding.
Kennedy further noted that they were to present their plights to representatives of government who could be available and members of the Legislature Judiciary Committee to take notice of the ongoing proceeding.
But ANC Assistant Secretary-General Jonathan Dolakeh expressed dismay in the police action, terming it as a “return of the old days where people use the courts to muzzle political opponents”.
Dolakeh argued that the Weah government should not use security forces to harm peaceful citizens for making use of the law, which the CDC once enjoyed during the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf-led administration.
Dolakeh wants the Weah administration to repeal the law which gives citizens the right to peacefully assemble, before using fire on them.
He registered that the Ministry of Justice was aware of their Tuesday protest.
Dolakeh said the ANC will remain relentless in raising concern to the public on the need for a fair trial involving Cummings.
Meanwhile, the ANC Political Leader has condemned the police brutality against his partisans.
“I am totally appalled and upset that the Liberia National Police unleashed a ferocious, surprise, cowardly and unprovoked attack against peaceful Liberians expressing their democratic right of assembly. Many of our peaceful citizens were teargassed and wounded under life threatening circumstances by their government whose duty it is to protect these Liberian citizens, and their right of assembly,” Mr. Cummings stated.
According to him, the police brutality against the ANC supporters is a manifestation of the government’s suppression of democratic rights.
Cummings: “The unprovoked attack on peaceful Liberians exercising their right to assemble peacefully again underscores various issues with the police including its lack of training, impunity, use as a partisan force for evil, and its resistance to changing a history of the state’s abuse of power against those it swore to protect.
“I condemn this in the strongest term possible. Liberia will not be returned to its dark days of fear, police brutality, lawlessness and intimidation of Liberians who do not share our views or those with whom we may disagree.”