Police Charge Township Commissioner, 73 Others in Weala’s Violent Protest

WEALA, Margibi – Police in Margibi have charged and sent to court the commissioner of Cinta Township, Roland Johnson, and 73 other individuals for their alleged roles in the April 1 violence in Weala.

The defendants were charged for rioting, failure to disperse, terroristic threat, arson, theft of property, criminal mischief, obstructing highways and public passages, and disorderly conduct. These charges followed a violent protest initiated by commercial motorcyclists over the gruesome murder of one of their members.

According to the police charge sheet, the violent protest led to the destruction of several private and public properties, including the burning of two police stations, a magisterial court, a compound containing four houses, and seven vehicles. The cost of the damage was estimated at more than US$220,000 and L$600,000 (US$3,633).

Protesters also set ablaze tires as roadblocks in the streets, preventing traffic flow for more than four hours.

The police document also revealed that the aggrieved motorcyclists had agreed in a meeting with authorities to abandon their planned demonstration when they later took to the streets in the violent protest.

It said, despite an earlier intervention by police to curb the violence, the protesters continued their action with no regards for the rule of law.

“The team was constrained to use non-lethal force to restore sanity in the Township of Weala and its environs” it read.

“Being so excited by their lawlessness and acts of unwholesomeness, they choose to burn and loot private and public properties.”

Although all 75 defendants denied their involvement, a team headed by the commissioner of police for operations, Walter Wray, had arrived on the scene of the demonstration and met the defendants in active aggression and unleashing violent actions.

However, the suspected ring leaders of the violent protest are yet to turn themselves in for police investigation, for fear of being mistreated. Tamba Alfred, one of the signatories to the position statement issued prior to the protest, spoke from his hideout where he said he has no one to represent his legal interest and that he feared to turn himself in.

Meanwhile, residents of Weala are now relieved of fear and normal activities resumed after armed police deployed in the community were recalled. The Salala Rubber Corporation, which partially closed down its operations because of workers’ failure to report to work due to fear of being arrested, has now resumed full operations. Schools have reopened and businesses are also operating.

Featured photo by Emmanuel Degleh

Emmanuel Degleh

Emmanuel has over a decade of experience working as a community radio broadcaster. He is the Margibi correspondent for the Liberia Broadcasting System and the Manager for Classic FM 93.9 MHz, one of Liberia’s leading community radio stations. Emmanuel is also a member of the Press Union of Liberia and a 2016 Internews Health Journalism Fellow.

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