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Police, students in teargas-stones battle

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Police studentsA separate solidarity protests by militant-styled students from the state run University of Liberia or UL and a group supporting the self proclaimed advocate- Vandala Patricks turned nasty on Monday February 29, when police responded with tear gas canisters at stones throwing students.

The situations brought the city to a standstill as vehicles and pedestrians got trapped in the middle of the stone throwing students and riot police on Capitol Hill, where the three branches of government are situated. Vehicles where redirected to avoid being smashed by students.

Both groups (students and supporters of self proclaimed advocate Patricks) had gone at the Judicial compound or the Temple of Justice for two separate cases. The students had gone at the Judiciary in solidarity with the leader of the campus based Student Unification Party or SUP, who had been subpoenaed to appear at the Civil Law Court in relations to an ongoing hearing involving one of their colleagues, student Alvin Wesseh. Student Wesseh is challenging his expulsion from the university by authorities.

The other group headed by a chairman of the opposition Congress for Democratic Change or CDC Mulbah Morlu had gone at the Temple of Justice to demand the release of self proclaimed advocate Patricks held on charges of criminal libel against the president and sedition for linking President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and her government to alleged murders of opponents.

The latest death here is that of a former managing director of the Liberian Petroleum Refining Company or LPRC Mr. Harry Greaves who was discovered dead on the beach days after he was last seen at the RLJ Keneja Hotel off the Robertsfield Highway.

The drama began at the Judiciary where the students mostly of SUP dressed in their khaki outfits had escorted their party leader to attend to the court subpoena in the expelled student Alvin Wesseh’s petition against UL.

But the grounds of the Temple of Justice had already been besieged by protesters in solidarity with self-proclaimed advocate Patricks who by this time had come in encounter with the police. The UL students greeted by an already charged atmosphere at the grounds of the Temple of Justice where their gathering coincided with the self proclaimed advocate Patricks supporters joined the riot. Although  they will later denied their involvement in the judicial compound riot.

But they admitted returning to the court to listen to the case involving Pastricks after initially serving the purpose for which they had gathered at the Civil Law Court. But eye-witnesses said they were chased out by the police who had reinforced their squad to restore law and order and clear the Patricks supporters from the court premises. As they were being chase into their campus, the students resorted to stones throwing at the police. The police in return responded with the firing of tear gas canister.

In an interview with some students on the university campus after the incident had been brought under control, University of Liberia Student Union or ULSU President Daniel T. Woart, alleged that the police did not understand that the UL students were not part of supporters of Patricks.

He insists that he did not witness UL students throwing stones during the incident, while accusing the police of distracting other peaceful students who were sitting exams. Student Woart claimed that one student got wounded and was hospitalized, but no arrest was reported so far.

Another student interviewed, Daniel Sargbeh also claimed that they were not part of protest, but police took them for people who were at the court in solidarity with Patricks, despite attempt to provide such clarity to the police. When contacted, the police said they were going to issue a statement surrounding the incident.

By Winston W. Parley-Edited by Othello B. Garblah

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