Nine persons were in police custody Wednesday evening having been arrested for what police say was a failure to observe the outer limit for protesting near buildings in which the head offices of government ministries are located.
The protesters, supporters of the main opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), were picketing outside the Electoral Office in Kingstown, where daily demonstrations have taken place since the Dec. 9 general elections.
“The distance from any ministerial building for protester where they should assembly is 200 yards,” Commissioner of Police Michael Charles told iWitness News Wednesday evening.
“And, 200 yards from the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of National Security takes us somewhere in the vicinity of the Chinese restaurant, just above the electoral office,” he said.
Those ministries are located in te Financial Complex on the reclamation site, where the Electoral Office and private businesses are located.
“This morning, they (protesters) had chairs, coal pot, ice boxes, etc there and so on, and the police asked them to move. They refused. Those were taken up. The police asked the people to move, to the distances, and those who didn’t, they were arrested.
“They are now being processed at Central [Police Station] with a view, most likely, they will be charged,” Charles said.
He said police have not decided if they will charge the protesters.
“We ain’t cross that border as yet really. But as I speak, they are in police custody,” he said in an interview at 4:30 p.m.
The police chief said he was not too sure what charges may be laid against the protesters.
He, however, said: “I know for sure, unlawful assembly would be one of those charges; being beyond the specified distance, that would also be another one. So, clearly, maybe two charges.”
The arrests came one day after police removed barrier that they had erected near the electoral office since December when the protest began.
The protesters are demonstrating against the results of the Dec.9 general election, which the NDP says that the ruling Unity labour Party (ULP) “stole”.
Charles said that police decided to remove the barriers on Tuesday because they were an inconvenience to business owners in the area, who had to park elsewhere.
He said police decided that they would not prevent persons from protesting, “but they would have to protest as if the barriers were there”.
And, after the arrest of the protesters, Leader of the Opposition and NDP president Arnhim Eustace and other persons gathered in protest at the same area.
Eustace also called out NDP supporters to protest in the area on Thursday.
Speaking on the NDP’s radio programme, Eustace said he regards the action of the police as “reprehensible”.
“And we have to respond,” Eustace said, adding that lawyers for the NDP were dealing with the arrest of the protesters.
He said that the protesters did nothing wrong, but were “exercising rights which have been guaranteed under the constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and other laws.”
Eustace said the nation has just gone through a bruising election protest and noted that the protests are in connection with those elections.
He pointed out that he announced on Tuesday that the NDP would protest in other areas of the country.
“The action taken today requires us to make a response in the New Democratic party. And I am calling on our members, wherever you are, in whatever constituency you reside, to come back to that spot tomorrow morning and continue the protest.”
“As President of the New Democratic Party, I am asking all of our people who can make it to come into Kingstown tomorrow to protest the action taken by those in authority.”
Eustace also noted that the hearing in the election petitions filed by the NDP is scheduled to begin on Thursday.
An absolute disgrace and a real condemnation of Gonsalves political policies.
Way to go Eustace! Way to go protesters!
Whoever made that 200 yards law should have expected that it is not worth the paper it is written on. […]
How can people effectively protest when they are not allowed to protest at the place where it matters? Only a tyrannical state, led by a tyrannical dictatorial leader would uphold such laws.
More of Ralph Gonsalves making up fantasy laws and twisting the real laws that really do exist…..I wonder if he did those things when he was practicing law?
We really have to check-up on everything he says. He always twists and spins everything to his advantage in order to deceive the people to continue his lust for wealth, comfort and power.
This incident shows that he certainly can win elections (by hook or by crook) and he knows how to lead his party but he sure is a terrible leader for the country! Failing economy with mass unemployment: Highest rate of violent crime in our history: a divided people:…etc…
St Vincent belongs to all Vincentians, a peaceful protest should and must be allowed in our country. We are a democratic country and democracy equals freedom to assembly and protest in a peaceful way without any disturbance from police officers, and free speech .St Vincent and the Grenadines is not Syria, Iran, or Libya during the dictatorship of moammar Gadhafi. It is despicable the way the protesters are man handle by these puppets who we call peacekeepers, you need to respect the elders of your country and treat your fellow citizens humanely. Do unto others as you would want others do unto you. We are our brothers keeper, every one deserve respect, respect others so you can be respected.
In the words of the greatest civil rights leader, activist and trailblazer Martin Luther King Jr,”with this faith, we will be able to hew out the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
And this will be the day –this will be the day when all of god’s children will be able to sing with the new meaning:
My country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my father’s died, land of the pilgrim’s pride,
From every mountainside , let freedom ring”! ” Free at last,! ,Free at last ! Thank god almighty ,we are free at last” !
Luzette King just came on the radio and stated, the she was “reliably informed” that Gonsalves just gave the order to USE TEAR GAS ON THE PROTESTERS…well for the sake of Ms King, she will have to HOPE that folks really get tear gas to justify her reckless and inciting action. She further went on to insinuate that the police have guns;with the purpose of shooting the protesters. After that call by Ms King, nice radio phone lines blew up, with angry callers, responding to what Ms King said. Folks were in a “tizzic” using inappropriate language for the airwaves;calling for retaliation. In other words, Ms King succeeded in totally riling up folks with her clarion call for bacchanal.
Luzette King is a joker of the highest order. I am down with folks protesting in a peaceful manner but I am afraid that with Ms King in the forefront, she is going to instigate disorder and caused the poor and less informed folks to get their arse locked up or worse.
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