June 7 Protesters Insist on Open Meeting With Senate

MONROVIA, Montserrado – Organizers of the planned June 7 protest were unable to meet with the Liberian Senate for a scheduled meeting yesterday because the Senate failed to agree to the protest leaders’ demand to open the meeting to the media.

The Senate had invited the protesters for a dialogue on May 30, ahead of the planned protest on June 7. Senate Pro Tempore Albert Chie had earlier appealed to the organizers of the June 7 protest to abandon their planned action in the interest of peace and stability and had also encouraged the president to meet with protesters to hear their demands in hopes of avoiding the protest.

The protest was announced as a peaceful assembly that is expected to begin on June 7 and potentially last for days, with the purpose of demanding reforms to improve governance and the economy.

Speaking to legislative reporters minutes after walking out of the Capitol Building, the chief spokesperson for the Council of Patriots, Darius Dillon, said they would only meet with the Senate and any other groups seeking to mediate if the meeting is open to the press and the public.

He said the group’s leaders could not have a meeting in the interest of the Liberian people behind closed doors. Dillon stressed the need for transparency to ensure that the public knew what was being discussed and avoid any suspicion of being compromised.

“The Senate wanted to hold a closed session and we said no because the issue has to do with the interest of the Liberian people and so we wanted an open decision with the media and the Liberian people,” Dillon said. “The Senate has gone back in its session to reconsider the decision of having the planned meeting with the COP [Council of Patriots] in closed door.”

Dillon said if the Senate wished to speak with the organizers of the protest again, its leaders are always available.

“Like we met with President [George] Weah and the international community, we are available to meet with the Liberian Senate, but we insist it be in open session where the public and press will be [a] part,” he noted.

Dillon also expressed a willingness to meet with the House of Representatives under the same conditions. Nimba’s sixth district representative, Dorwohn Twain Gleekia, had already said he wanted the organizers to meet with representatives to justify their protest.

“We have no plans to meet with the House but if the House wants to meet with us we will write on condition that the meeting will be open to the press and the public,” Dillon added.

Reacting to the protesters’ decision to only meet in public, acting Senate Pro Tempore Dan Morias said the Senate body had already agreed to have a private meeting with the organizers. He said lawmakers would reconvene and reconsider their decision.
“We will go back and inform plenary about this decision and they will make a determination on what to do, but our rules say we cannot do it on our own,” he added.

Featured photo by Zeze Ballah

Ida Reeves

Ida Reeves holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Liberia in Mass Communications and Sociology. She graduated from the Young Political Leadership School and has worked in the past for Farbric Radio, Freedom Radio, and Frontier newspaper.

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