By Lincoln G. Peters
Grand Cape Mount County Senator Simeon Taylor has expressed dismay over what appears to be a non-compliance posture he reportedly got from Liberia National Police (LNP) authorities and the head of the National Chiefs and Elders Council of Liberia, Chief Zanzan Karwor, allegedly ignoring his mediation effort when protesters were being tear-gassed.
“They fired arm yesterday and I heard the sound, but whether it was teargas, I can’t tell. The shooting sound in Grand Cape Mount County, Kinjor, was very heavy and [I] was on the scene. I heard it. I am not telling you they say,’’ Senator Taylor said during conversation with local broadcaster OK FM Tuesday, 11 January 2022.
Senator Taylor claimed that when he got on the scene and saw his people protesting, he tried negotiating with them, but Chief Karwor responded by saying that they were not there to negotiate, and the police moved on and fired tear gas to disperse the protesters.
“I cannot say … that the police did not shoot live bullets. However, I heard a sound of a gun but whether it was a teargas sound or bullet, I can’t tell,” Senator Taylor added.
According to Senator Taylor, Police Inspector General Col. Patrick Sudue allegedly gave instruction to his deputy for operations Col. Marvin Sackor to move in and disperse the protesting citizens.
Taylor lamented that when he engaged Sudue, the police chief noted that they were shooting teargas.
But the Cape Mount Senator said he found it difficult to believe what the police chief had said because the shooting sound was too heavy.
It was reported on Monday, 10 January 2022 that one person was feared dead and a three-month-old child had allegedly sustained major injuries after police officers reportedly fired what was alleged to be live bullets at dispersed protesters at Bea Mountain mining company in Kinjor, Grand Cape Mount County.
But the LNP has since clarified that it did not fire live bullets, saying tear gas was discharged to disperse protesters.
Reports say the protest was organized by aggrieved residents of the county from the affected areas in the gold camp who accused the management of Bea Mountain Mining Company of carrying on bad labor practices.
Local journalists in the county reported that following minutes of police presence among the protesters, there were sounds of gunfire, but it was not clear whether those sounds were those of tear gas or live bullets.
Reports say there were some arrests made by the Liberia National Police.
Meanwhile, Senator Taylor explained that when he got on the scene, he informed Col. Sudue that he was sent there by the President Pro-Tempore of the Liberian Senate, Albert T. Chief to negotiate, and therefore, he did not expect the police chief to listen to Chief Karwor to move against the people.
‘’My bossman, Pro-Tempore Albert Chie, told me to move in and negotiate with the people no matter how the situation should be, and there should be no force applied against the protestors,” said Senator Taylor.
“I told IG just as my boss man told me, however, IG Sudue, having listened to Chief Zanzan Karwor, instructed Marvin Sackor to move against the people,” Taylor continued.
He said he tried talking to Col. Sackor, but he allegedly refused to listen or negotiate.
For his part, the Spokesman of the Liberia National Police Moses Carter told a press conference Tuesday, 11 January 2022 at the police headquarters in Monrovia that at no time did the police discharge live bullets, contrary to reports by some media institutions.
Mr. Carter clarified that the LNP only used teargas to disperse the group.
‘’Due to the failure of the protesters to disperse after series of constructive efforts to have them remove the blockades from the entrance of the mining facility, the LNP was left with no alternative but to use tear gas as a conventional means of dispersing any group that refuses to adhere to lawful instruction,’’ Mr. Carter noted.
According to him, no major injuries were sustained as a result of dispersing the violent protesters.
However, Carter said a vehicle belonging to the Inspector General of Police was attacked with stones and its side windshield was broken.
He added that another vehicle belonging to the Bea Mountain company was set ablaze by the protesters.
Carter explained further that they have arrested and detained three persons in connection with the crimes and are undergoing police investigation pending prosecution.
‘’Currently, negotiations are ongoing by traditional leaders and some heads of the Liberia National Police, as calm has been restored in the Bea Mountain company and this has resulted [in] citizens going about their normal business in the county,” Mr. Carter told reporters.
He dismissed as false and misleading the claims that the police fired live bullets, arguing that the police are trained and will never engage in such unprofessional acts.