Lawyer Announces Plan to Petition Court to Stop June 7 Protest

MONROVIA, Montserrado – Less than two weeks to the planned June 7 protest in Monrovia, prominent lawyer Arthur Johnson has announced plans to petition the Supreme Court to prevent organizers from going ahead with the protest.

The Council of Patriots, a group of citizens including current and former public officials, have announced a peaceful assembly of mass citizens beginning on June 7 to demand meaningful reforms that will lead to the improvement in governance and the economy.

Despite a meeting with the president aimed at discouraging the protest, organizers remain firm on their plan to protest. The leaders, however, requested that the president commits to upholding the constitution and to guarantee their right to protest on June 7, when they would present their grievances through a petition.

The group’s spokesperson, Darius Dillon, who is also Liberty Party’s deputy chairman for political affairs and a candidate in the Montserrado senatorial by-elections, maintained that Liberia’s peace and stability remains the paramount concern to the protestors and that anyone making insinuations that the exercise of their constitutional rights is a threat to the country’s peace is equally insinuating that he or she does not respect peace.

The Council of Patriots had also earlier said the peaceful protest was not meant to demand the resignation of President George Weah, but to demand meaningful reforms that will lead to the improvement of the living standards of Liberians.

However, as the movement has grown, it has incorporated elements such as Rep. Yekeh Kolubah of Montserrado’s 10th district, who had made prior statements that the president would have to step down if he did not meet demands to improve his leadership.

Johnson said the intent of the planned protest is to unconstitutionally oust a government that was elected through a democratic process.

He told a live radio show on Ok FM on Monday that he has resolved to initiate a case to compel the government to dialogue with the protest organizers to abandon their intent. Additionally, he said he also plans to use the courts to bar the protest from taking place.

The right to protest is enshrined in the Liberian constitution: “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.”

But the lawyer said because protesters suggested that their assembly could last for more than 30 days, it could be disruptive to the economy and may make the protest more susceptible to violence, thus making it unconstitutional.

Johnson drew parallel to a planned mass gathering in May 1986, the same year the current constitution came into existence, in the case the Grand Coalition vs. the Republic of Liberia. The government had filed for a writ of prohibition against the protest, which came after a major election.

According to Johnson, the Supreme Court granted the writ of prohibition because “Protest is a fundamental right when it is peaceful and orderly. But where protest is condition precedent and characterized with threats of questioning the integrity and the stability of the state, where protest will undermine the economy, where protest will show signals of chaos, where protest will, also move to the position of toppling and asking the government to stand down or to resign, that action, if the government acts, the action of the government to halt such a protest will not be unconstitutional. The action of the government will be constitutional because national security supersedes all other interests.”

He said the current situation is similar to that of 1986. While Johnson said he has fundamental issues with the current governance of the country, he differs with the June 7 protesters on the methodologies in which they are calling for the government to address the issues.

He referenced a speech talk show host Henry Costa gave to students at the University of Liberia where he said the protest would last for up to 35 days until their concerns can be addressed by the president.

“You have a situation where protesters are saying that come what may, June 7, they will protest for 35 days if the president of Liberia does not address their concerns. The question is, can the government of Liberia address the enormous issues they are talking about, one day when they present their petition? I say no,” Johnson said.

“Two, the protesters are saying that if they call the protest and read their petition and the issues are not dealt with by the president, they will call the president to step down.”

Johnson also argued that most of those who are expected to join the protest are young people who have not experienced a violent protest and its ramifications. He also claimed that the vast majority of Liberians in the U.S. morally and financially support the protest because they live on a temporary Deferred Enforced Departure immigration status. He said they prefer to create chaos in Liberia in order to make a stronger case for their status to be extended next year.

However, it is worth noting that Liberians in the U.S. on D.E.D. status are about 4,000 in number while the total number of Liberians in the U.S. has been estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands.

Featured photo by Zeze Ballah

Gbatemah Senah

Senah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. Between 2017 and 2019, he won six excellent reporting awards from the Press Union of Liberia. They include a three-time Land Rights Reporter of the Year, one time Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Human Rights Reporter of the Year.

The Bush Chicken is a young operation and we need your support to keep bringing you great content. Please support us.

Monthly   Yearly   One time

Gold Level Supporter—$250/year
Silver Level Supporter—$100/year
Bronze Level Supporter—$50/year
Or pick your own amount: $/year
Gold Level Supporter—$250
Silver Level Supporter—$100
Bronze Level Supporter—$50
Or pick your own amount: $
Contributions to The Bush Chicken are not tax deductible.

Related posts