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Thwarting public dissent

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The Inspector General of the Liberian National Police Col. Patrick Sudue appears firm to thwart the June 07 protest being organized by a group of Liberians under banner, Council of Patriots to demands reforms in the Weah administration.

On the build-up to the actual protest date this Friday, (07 June) as pronounced, the Police Chief seems to be shifting the goalpost to restrict and frustrate protesters from getting in the streets of Monrovia trying to, in his own words, give a difference between a march and an assembly.

IG Sudue vowed in a community policing meeting in Monrovia Thursday, 30 May that there will be no marching on June 7.“Nobody marching; nobody marching. Article 17 says peaceful assembly. Assembly means, the way all of us gathered here today, that’s assembly. [Did] we march to come here?” Col. Sudue asked rhetorically as the crowd respond, “No.”

“Fine, that’s what they call assembly.” In his argument, a march is only done for instance, from (Duala or Gbarnga to Monrovia) one point to another when people are engaged in a protest march, contrary to a peaceful assembly, which he says people involved agree to meet at a certain location at a particular time.

“So, those that will go to march, the government has given you your space. But you should be … peaceful,” Col. Sudue cautions.

Article 17 of the Constitution of Liberia reads, “All persons, at all times, in an orderly and peaceable manner, shall have the right to assemble and consult upon the common good, to instruct their representatives, to petition the Government or other functionaries for the redress of grievances and to associate fully with others or refuse to associate in political parties, trade unions and other organizations.”

The Council of Patriots or protest organizers say they intend to converge on Capitol Hill, the seat of the Liberian government to read and present their petition to President George Manneh Weah, demanding reforms in his administration.

But while protesters rely on Article 17 for their June 7 assembly, Col. Sudue suggests that Article 13 of the Constitution also guarantees the right of free movement for citizens and residents who may not form part of the protest, warning
protesters not to hinder movement of others who may want to go about their normal businesses.

We like to emphasize that the Police have a duty to protect both protesters and non-protesters as enshrined in Article 13 and Article 17, respectively, rather than trying to prevent one group from getting in the street. In other words, one right or one article does not supersede the other.

And the truth of the matter, Liberians had peacefully marched before in the streets and petitioned their leaders in the Legislature and even before foreign Missions near this capital with the recent example being the “Bring Back Our Money” campaign few months ago. The authority seems to be adapting scare tactics against this one.

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