Police manhandle villagers picketing Granger at school graduation
…violation of constitutional right of freedom of assembly – villagers
Residents of Cornelia Ida (C.I.) on the West Coast of Demerara (WCD) were reportedly manhandled by members of the Guyana Police Force during a “peacefully” protest outside the Saraswati Vidya Niketan (SVN) where President David Granger was the chief guest.
The Head of State attended the annual graduation at the educational institution located at Cornelia Ida (CI) Public Road, WCD.
However, upon his arrival, he was greeted by placard-carrying protestors from villagers who were protesting his illegality in office. The picketing exercise was organised by members of the Association for Democracy and Human Rights (ADHR) which is comprised by residents of CI and surrounding villages.
Speaking with the Guyana Times, Director of the Association Vikash Ramkissoon explained that they had emerged from a street in their village opposite SVN and were lined up on the shoulder of the public road picketing when some People’s National Congress (PNC) supporters started to counter protest them. At the time, they were behind the “safe” area barricaded by the police, who numbered over 150 ranks and officers.
According to Ramkissoon, the situation escalated after the president’s motorcade passed and arrived at the school. He noted that the PNC “counter” protestors were allowed through beyond the secured area while they were prevented from doing same by the officers who formed a human barricade to block them off.
“We asked why we can’t go through as well and [the police] had no answer,” he stated.
As such, the ADHR member said that they subsequently moved the protest back into into the street in the CI Housing Scheme located opposite the school where the President was.
Ramkissoon said they were “peacefully” picketing behind the barricades when the police returned in force and suddenly started to vigorously push back the protestors further into the street, using the barricades like battring rams. This, he noted, further escalated the situation and the protestors were manhandled.
“We went into the street opposite SVN where the president was and there was barricade there and so we stood behind the barricade protesting peacefully when the police pushed barricades to get us further back when they could’ve simply requesdt us to move back and that was very rude….
“If the police had made a request formerly to us that we needed to move back then we would have because we were there peacefully protesting behind the barricades. But they were rude, they wanted a confrontation. We didn’t go pass the barricades but they used the barricades to push back on us further into the street,” Ramkissoon recalled. “The had established a “safe zone” but were now arbitrarily expanding it. In doing so they were denying us our constitutional right to freedom of association and freedom to protest.”
He related that this resulted in some of the protestors falling to the ground and even in the nearby drain, resulting in at least one man sustaining injuries to one of his feet.
Ramkissoon related that he was capturing the entire ordeal on his phone when the police arrested him. He said he was placed in a police vehicle with cuffs on his ankle “like a criminal” and his phone was taken away.
He further told his newspaper that there was a young man who was also detained with him and they were left there shackled for more than an hour without being allowed to contact anyone. However, he said that nearly two hours after being detained he was released.
“They released me and told me to move my car and go home so I did just that. When I left the other boy was there still and I don’t know what happened to him because after they told me to go home, I left. I didn’t want to cause any problem,” Ramkissoon said.
Nevertheless, he contended that their he was subject to “false imprisonment” by the police because there was no reason for shackling and detaining him.
However, that Sunday afternoon incident was the second ordeal that the ADHR members had to face that day. In preparation for their planned protest later in the day, the members were erecting black flags to signify the “death of democracy” under the Granger-led Coalition regime.
Those flags, however, were removed by the police, whom Guyana Times understands were instructed by the Ministry of the Presidency to do so.
Another member of the Association, Jeewan Ramcharitar, pointed out that they were surprised with the action by the police.
“The police instructed me to take the flags off but I resisted and say I can’t take it off because it was mounted by some other members, who had to use ladders to place it on the poles… The flags are actually withheld by one of the police officers and he said that if I want back the flags I have to go back to the station tomorrow,” Ramcharitar said.
Moreover, protestors from the community said they were taken aback by the large number of police ranks deployed to the location for just the presence of the caretaker president. It was the largest gathering of police they ever saw on West Coast.
“It was very amazing that the taxpayers’ money has gone to this kind of things… I’m living for 15 years in CI and this is the first time so many police and security force is out here,” one woman stated.
Another man, Sham, pointed out that whenever any crime happens, there is never any police to go to the scene but they found ranks to line the community for the illegal president.
Ramcharitar further added that they were “intimated by such high presence of police. We never see so much of police here. I never expect that we have so much of police up here. For example, if there is a robbery at your home days after then you will see police show up.”