After more than two months of planning, the much-heralded June 7th protest finally came to an end with no report of violence in sight. The protest has gone down into history as one of the most peaceful protests in the country as well as the world. There was not a single shot fired, nor anyone arrested, molested or tortured.
In spite of the fear that grip the nation that the protest was going to be chaotic and deadly, both the government and the organizers proved critics and pessimists wrong. The day which started with a down pour of rain ended with the rising of the sun signaling a new beginning and setting the benchmark for protesting in Liberia.
Anyone living in the memories of previous protests in Liberia including the 1979 Rice Riot and post conflict protest would have easily deduced that the June 7th protest would have been violent if not bloodied. The precursor was evident of what happened on the morning of June 4th when supporters of one of the organizers of the protest in person of Rep. Yekeh Kolubah clashed with bystanders on Broad street. The show down which began after Rep. Kolubah appearance on the T-Max 50-50 Talk Show left few persons bloodied.
As if to add more gas to the fire, June 5th created another round of tension when officers of the Liberia National Police carried out a search operation at the home of Rep. Kolubah’s resident on the Old Road. After series of scuffles between police and supporters of Rep. Kolubah, it took the intervention of Hon. Snowe and ECOWAS’ Ambassador to escort the lawmaker to the LNP Headquarters. Riot also ensued between police and students of the University of Liberia leading to the arrest of few students.
With this sort of tension in the atmosphere, even international partners had concluded that the protest was going to be bad for country. But contrary to all of the obvious reasons for a chaotic protest, it proved successful with citizens crediting the peaceful nature of the day to both the government and the organizers.
Recounting years of protests a resident of Capitol By-Pass, Mr. Michael Swen noted that George Weah Government will go down in history as one of the most peaceful administrations. “From the tension in the air my mind went way back to the 1979 rice riot when I was a young man. I saw people gunned down by military men. But this one proved different; it was like an easy Sunday morning” he noted.
Johnson Karlay a resident of West Point said: “For me, my mind went back to the incident that led to the shooting to death little Shaki Kamara in 2014 by a member of the AFL. But as it turned out, the protest was so peaceful to the extent that not many persons were aware if there was a protest” he said. For Lorraine Wrights a local business woman: “I got scary when I saw the international partners leaving the country and all those advisory notes from the US and UK governments. But as God would have it, it was nonviolent”.
Though disappointed that the organizers refused to present their petition on Friday, many left feeling a sense of respect for the government, especially members of the police and other security forces for the orderly manner in which the protest was conducted.