MONROVIA, Monrovia â€“ Yesterday, a planned protest organized by the Council of Patriots seemed to go astray amid a gathering of a small group of protesters near Capitol Hill without the presence of their leaders. The dayâ€™s events later got complicated, as rioting sprouted on Tubman Boulevard, causing major traffic.
The Council of Patriots, who had called for the July 31 protest, announced a decision to abandon the protest in anticipation of the National Elections Commissionâ€™s pronouncement of official result of the Montserradoâ€™s Senatorial by-election.
Two supporters of the protest and members of the four opposition collaborating political parties, Darius Dillon and Telia Urey, had contested as senatorial and representative candidates, respectively.
Henry Costa, who chairs the protest group, announced the new decision during a press conference yesterday when several supporters were already gathering in Central Monrovia. Rather than going ahead with the protest, Costa called on supporters to converge at the headquarters of Dillonâ€™s Liberty Party to await the announcement of the first batch of results.
â€œWe are calling on all our supporters: COP supporters, Liberty Party supporters, Unity Party supporters, [Alternative National Congress] supporters, [All Liberian Party] supporters, and all the other new political parties to join the grand collaboration to proceed right now at the headquarters of the Liberty,â€ he said.
However, because of the late notice, some protesters had already made their way to the protest site by the time Costa called off the gathering. He later announced that police had arrested ten supporters for allegedly protesting illegally.
Later, a riot began on Tubman Boulevard in Congo Town when members of the Coalition for Democratic Change violently infiltrated the celebration ongoing at Liberty Partyâ€™s headquarters, Costa added, accusing CDC supporters of throwing stones at Liberty Partyâ€™s supporters.
He said members of the COP would meet today to regroup and strategize on their next course of action.
Liberty Partyâ€™s assistant secretary-general for public affairs, Daniel Sando, accused the chair of the CDC Youth League and mayor of Monrovia, Jefferson Koijee, of ordering the violence.
Koijee had called a press conference late yesterday afternoon expressing readiness to counter any protest against the government.
â€œWe want to officially announce to the world and the international community that what we fought for, we will not sit here as spectators and watch it come under attack by those friends who believe that nothing good can ever happen under our watch,â€ Koijee said.
â€œWe want to say, moving forward, when there is any called demonstration â€“ as lawmakers can lead, we want to say [in my official capacity], whether you call me mayor or you call me youth chairperson, we want to assure the public and the international community, we will be protectors of our democracy. We will be on the scene also. We will lead such forces, also.â€
He added: â€œNever again such mistaken incident will occur and you think that we will sit and somebody in utopia believing that because of the love of this country, and you think that you have a monopoly in distributing fear and panic in the people. No, thatâ€™s not possible.â€
The mayor said the party would communicate its official decision when the official results of the by-elections are announced.
â€œDonâ€™t think because I serve as a mayor, we will be on the front burner. We will lead our people as we led them before. We will be there,â€ he said. â€œAny day that will be announced here by anyone, we want to say to you, a similar day will be announced by us. And whosesoever you are we will also be there, and we will meet there in flesh and blood.â€
Meanwhile, Sando hopes that the police would invite the CDC youth chair to provide clarifications on his statements, noting that the country was a democratic state. He accused the police of doing nothing to stop the violence created at the Liberty Partyâ€™s headquarters by CDC supporters.
â€œThe police presence did not prevent the invasion by the CDC on our headquarters,â€ he said.
The spokesperson of the Liberia National Police, Moses Carter, confirmed that it responded to rioting and stone-throwing by individuals believed to be from CDC and supporters gathered at Liberty Partyâ€™s headquarters. Carter said while three individuals believed to be supporters of the opposition parties were injured, no arrest of those suspected to have caused the riot was made by the police, describing the situation as â€œvolatileâ€™â€
â€œYou have to be very mindful or careful when you respond to such riot situations. Your first objective is to ensure that you use every means to put the situation under control, and sometimes you want to be very mindful on how you carry on actions that could further exacerbate the situation,â€ he said.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah