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Brawl at the Capitol

-As police clash with protesters

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Riot police on Wednesday used batons and excessive force to disperse Legislative staffers who had besieged the main entrance of the Capitol Building on Wednesday September 30, 2020 in demand of their benefits. Eye witnesses say the instruction to violently handle the protecting staffers were issued by Bong County Representative Marvin Cole.

In demand of their share of sitting fees, staffers of the House of Representatives’ Central Administration had locked the gates of the Legislature, vowing that no car of a representative would enter or leave the Capitol Building until their (staffers’) concerns were met. The protesting group of staffers surrounded the car of House Speaker Bhofal Chambers, but they were heavily resisted by police.

They stormed the grounds of the Capitol Building in demand of their portion of extra sitting fees distributed to other staffers, claiming that they were left out of the process. Police succeeded in opening the gate forcibly, but left the staffers crying painfully owing to the flogging the staffers received.

This is just part of a series of protests that have been held by legislative staffers on Capitol Hill in recent times, some of which had to do with demanding a return of portions of their salaries that were allegedly unpaid for several months, among others.

One of the protesting staffers, Janet Liberty, calls on the police to kill them, saying it’s very unfair that the Central Administration staffers at the Senate and others allegedly got a share of extra sitting fees while those at the House of Representatives could not get anything. “Sergeant at Arms and all the police that are beating us today because we are demanding for our money, nothing will be well with you all,” she cries out.

As they surrounded the gate and had it locked, Bong County Representative Marvin Cole instructed the Liberia National Police (LNP) to open the entrance by force, saying the staffers had no right to lock it.
According to him, where one person’s right ends, that’s where the other person’s right begins.

Cole states that lawmakers have the right to be in session at that very moment and should not be obstructed by staffers from going to work. Rep. Cole notes that when the decision was reached in plenary by two third votes that the staffers of the House of Representatives were not part of the money in question, he was not in session.

According to him, the group should meet with the leadership of the House, but notes that locking the gate will not be a solution for them. He says if the protesters do not leave the gate to allow lawmakers to go to work, they will be taken from the gate by force, noting that neither the Speaker, nor anyone will come down to meet with them.

The spokesperson of the group G. Andrew Wolloh says that it has been very unfair to them that their one year Liberian dollars component of their salaries was cut off. According to him, their six months gas was also cut off, lamenting that there was also a distribution of money for extra sitting, and they didn’t get anything from there also.

“This is our government, we fought as opposition for 12 years. Speaker Chambers was here and said all kinds of things to Ma Ellen when she was president, and now he is treating us even more than Madam Sirleaf’s administration,” Wolloh claims.

He recalls that Representative Marvin Cole was once a staffer at the Legislature and was part of those who fought for extra fees and salary like it is being done today by aggrieved staffers, wondering why Cole will be wicked and forget so soon. According to Wolloh, they have made several attempts in getting this resolved but there has been no solution.

He says they went in the Chamber of the House of Representatives during session, but they were sent out, adding that they have also gone to the speaker’s office for a dialogue but he drove them outside. “Since the speaker thinks we are not human beings with family, let him come to us and tell us when we will receive our share of the money,” Wolloh concludes.

By Ethel A Tweh –Edited by Winston W. Parley

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