A peaceful mass protest in Monrovia turned violent Monday, 6 June after joint state security agents teargassed peaceful protesters during reported disagreements with the protesters over their demand to cook, eat and sleep at their protest site on Capitol Hill.
The Council of Patriots (COP) which led similar mass protest on June 7, 2019 to demand reforms in President George Manneh Weah’s government, also led the 6 January 2020 protest in followup to their demands on several things.
The COP wants President Weah to dismiss some of his key cabinet officials, publish his assets, and to give the outcome into audit on the infusion of US$25m into the economy to mop – up excess liquidity, among others.
Following weeks of threats from a pro -government group to stage a counter protest on the same day of COP’s assembly, international partners’ intervention saved the country from possible chaos by prevailing on the COP to suspend its assembly ahead of 30 December, the original date it set for the protest.
After the joint securities’ move on Monday which affected protesters, some journalists and bystanders, the head of COP and radio talk show host Henry P. Costa told journalists that “… our people were peaceful until they were provoked and teargassed, and several of them wounded, we are being told.”
He challenges police’s claim that they found firearms in two vehicles allegedly belonging to opposition lawmaker Rep. Yekeh Kolubah, a key member of the COP and fierce critic of President Weah and his regime.
“We want to state categorically at no time did Honorable Yekeh Kolubah had any weapons in any of those two vehicles,” Costa argues.
Earlier during the protest on Monday, Montserrado County Sen. and COP member Mr. Abraham Darius Dillon claimed that President Weah doesn’t understand leadership and he is not a good leader.
During an interview at the protest scene, Dillon expressed frustration that there is no check and balance from the Legislature in which he works, allegedly making President Weah the head and the god who cannot be questioned by anybody.
According to Mr. Dillon, the protesters have shown to the securities here that they are not violent people, saying “we are orderly, we are peaceful, we chanting regular songs, we dancing along the way …”
Further, Dillon argues that their assembly shows to the government and the rest of the world that a good segment of Liberians are aggrieved.He trashes breakaway COP supporter Mr. Rufus Neufville’s claim ahead of the protest that the Council of Patriots received bribes from government agents to call off the protest.
In an interview with this paper during the protest, 84 year – old Mrs. Genevieve Badio, carrying two kids along, says shame is coming upon “us” and she can’t make it here again, citing the bad state of the economy here.
“Shame coming on us, I can’t make it here again,” she tells this medium during the interview held in the midst of many protesters on the street between the Executive Mansion and the Capitol.
She notes that a cup of rice is now sold at LD$50, making it difficult to feed the children.
“I want George Weah to hear and to know that it’s hell now that’s why I come here. You know I will not leave my house and come on the road,” she explains.
“Tell this president that we put him there. My children and all voted for him. Me, I UP (Unity Party supporter), but my whole children, even one of my grandsons guarding him. I love him more than I love even the food I eat because he just like my child. But he must see reason and respect us because we respect him,” she says.
She warns that if President Weah doesn’t listen and any trouble comes, he will be blamed for it.
Also being interviewed by this paper at the protest scene, 66 years old Mr. David J.R. Moore says he is protesting because of the treatment he gets in his own country.
“I suffered in war for 14 years, I slept in the bush during war and I’m still sleeping in the bush. I’m still sleeping in the bush. I cannot be like a slave in my own country,” he tells this paper.
Mr. Moore believes that his government can make him live happily, but he blames government for his poor living conditions over the years.“I’m a man having properties, but I’m living in poverty, and nobody can, you can’t do anything without money,” he adds.
Mr. Moore urges President Weah to pay attention to his people, warning the president that he has lots of Brutus around him that could cause his government to fail.“If not, he will say and thou too Brutus? Especially with McGill, because when things go out of hand, they’ll go astray,” he concludes. By Winston W. Parley