Before going into the detail of the students violent protest on Tuesday, March 22, 2011, let me begin by saying that the duties and responsibilities of the Liberia National Police is primarily to Serve and Protect.
Other functions of the LNP is the preservation of peace, protection of life, limb and property, recovery of lost and stolen property, arrest of violators of the law, the prevention and detection of crime and the enforcement of all laws and ordinances, among others.
Now, it was on Monday, March 21, 2011 at about eight o’clock in the morning, citizens and residents of Monrovia and its suburbs were greeted with placards toting students from the Monrovia Consolidated School System (MCSS) in protest to delay in the payment of approved salary increment to MCSS teachers.
The students peacefully assembled as part of their rights under the Liberian Constitution before the Ministry of Education in the presence of police officers. The police guarded the peaceful manner in which the students conducted themselves on that Monday. It is my understanding that the students met with relevant authorities at the Education Ministry to express their concerns. The police were still monitoring without any incident.
Although the students did not seek permission for such gathering, but due to the peaceful nature of the protest, the police guarded them. Apparently dissatisfied with the discussions with education authorities, the students convened a separate meeting on the same Monday, March 21, 2011 resolving to take to the streets on Tuesday, March 22, 2011 and destroy all RL vehicles, set road blocks for the president and all others to draw the government’s attention to the teachers plight.
During the early morning hours of March 22, 2011, the students took to the streets particularly Capitol Bye-pass and the 12th Street area in Sinkor. I was driving on my way to work and encountered a group of students standing in the middle of the road chanting slogans “no teacher, no work for government officials”.
While chanting anti-peace slogans, the police in no time arrived on the scene. Thanks to the police for that timely arrival. A senior police officer wearing while shirt appealed the protesting students to leave the main road and get into their fence so that a peaceful resolution could be reached but other students rejected the police appeal and resulted to insults and stone throwing after the police decided to disperse the crowd to allow the free flow of traffic.
The stone throwing by students resulted to injuries on some of their colleagues as the police ensured that law and order was maintained. Indeed, the police acted professionally as far as preserving peace and protecting life and property were concerned because the stone throwing led to property damage.
The police could not have done less than what they did to ensure the enforcement of the law. Indeed the police responded timely and acted within the confines of the law. As a matter of fact and procedure, the student should have sought permission from the Ministry of Justice for such protest so that the police would guard the process. The reason is simple readers. If a demonstration is guarded by the police, ill-intentioned individuals would not infiltrate like it happened on March 22, 2011.
Looking at the violent history of our country with the student population been used to unleash some of these violence it would have been messy if the violent students had reached to the city center. Looting, deaths, injuries and other harm associated with violence would have been experienced. The response of the police was equal to the violence brought by protesting students to peaceful citizens and the police officers who had gone on the scene to restore calm.
Even though students sustained injuries, but those injuries were the direct result of stone throwing from colleagues. It is not easily possible for a professional and trained police officer to throw stone at protesters when in fact, that officer is authorized by law to use force when necessary. In the instant case, the police use a force that matched the students’ resistance which is Proportional force.
I have listened and read people condemning the police for using what they called “excessive force.” The police did not use excessive force as claimed by politicians and student groups but use a proportional force to maintain control of the rioters. My knowledge about the LNP’s Use of Force Policy, the students were engaged into Active Aggression with the police that is, they attacked the officers in order to defeat the officers’ control and failed to complied with a verbal command from the police asking them to leave the streets.
This country belongs to all Liberians therefore, no one Liberian should be allowed to infringe on the rights of others and think that the police will standby.
Thank you very much for your timely and prompt response to a violent scene that was created by individuals who claimed to be students because a real student would not challenge a law enforcement officer who is obligated lawfully to maintain law and order and preserve peace while recognizing and respecting the value of human life. The police used the appropriate force to protect public welfare.
Editorial Note: The views expressed here are not those of The New Dawn but of our readers.