Bloody Soweto was the front page banner headline in the Wednesday, March 23, 2011 edition of the New Dawn. In that story, we reported that the manner in which the Liberian police brutally approached Tuesday’s student’s demonstration in Monrovia took the trend of the 1976 Soweto raids by South African racist police. During the brutal police confrontation, severe injuries were inflicted on several students.
The riot started when students refused to leave the street as ordered by the police, and subsequently began throwing stones in response to the attack on them. Perhaps because of the hostile approach by the Emergency response and Police Supports Units, the MCSS Students of William V.S Tubman and G.W. Gibson high Schools vowed not to leave the street until their teachers’ salary arrears and increment were met.
This resulted to both Students and Police throwing stones at each other with several wounds in the process on Capitol by- Pass and 12th Street. Some of the arrested students were seen in bloody and helpless conditions, while others were beaten severely and taken away in two police pick-up trucks after being pursued into their compounds and arrested.
MCSS Students at the William V.S Tubman High School on 12th Street in Sinkor had set road blocks, while those at G.W. Gibson threw stones on both government and private vehicles, damaging several of them upon hearing news of the police attack on their colleagues. The students told reporters that their classes had been disrupted since Monday, after instructors refused to appear in demand of their salary arrears and increment as promised by the government. They claimed to have started demonstrating peacefully when the Police Support unit arrived with force to disperse them. This, they noted, led to the violent situation.
While we at the New Dawn do not welcome the violent behavior of the students of the Monrovia Consolidated School System on Tuesday, we do also detest and condemn the brutal and violent response of the ERU and PSU of the Liberia national Police. The continuous violent manners our police handle situations in Monrovia and elsewhere in the country is indicative of the inability to make practical what they learnt at the National police Training Academy.
If their training at the Police academy taught them to them to control demonstration the way they did on Tuesday, March 22, 2011 against armless students, we have all reasons to conclude that the millions of dollars of international monies spent to prepare them for these tasks were just “for nothing”.
We are of the fervent belief that the attitudes of our brothers in arms may just be very similar to those of Africa’s war-time militias. It is in view of the foregoing that many marketers, commercial drivers and other citizens continue to complain daily. At the time we think we have graduated from our bitter past, we continue to be reminded, despite all of the international efforts to reform our state security.
This is why there is an urgent need for perpetrators of Tuesday’s Bloody Soweto to be legally pursued by the Government of Liberia to avoid a repeat. We do see the intervention by the Ministry of Education for the release of the students, as well as to honor its commitment to the striking teachers of the Monrovia Consolidated School System as very belated.
When the Ministry should have honored its commitment to the teachers since January this year, it chose to do so now after the damage has already been done. Despite the foregoing, in all fairness we do disfavor Tuesday’s Bloody Soweto.