By Talibeh Hydara
The police have yesterday dispersed #Occupywestfield group that gathered to voice their dissatisfaction after their permit to protest against the erratic power and water supply was revoked.
The riot police appeared shortly after the protesters read out their statement and threatened to use force if the group refused to vacate the place in 30 minutes which was cut down to 4 minutes.
The protest was slated to take place yesterday at Westfield after the police granted #Occupywestfield clearance to demonstrate not beyond three hours only for it to be revoked 24 hours later for ‘security concerns’.
In a press release signed by the assistant PRO of police ASP Foday Conta on Saturday, the police said the revocation was “necessitated due to security intelligence report which has posed security concerns”, advising parents to keep their children off the planned venue for the protest.
Reacting to the sudden revocation of the permit, Alieu Bah, the leader of the protest, said: “Our clearance has been revoked and nullified by the Government of The Gambia through the Office of the Inspector General of Police. They came forth with this conclusion for ‘security reasons.’
“If the police choose to be irresponsible to not provide security, we choose to remain responsible to not let our people go out there without a guarantee of their security.
“The dictatorship of unconstitutional clauses once again reigns supreme.”
Former Interior Minister Mai Fatty had held meetings with the group after the police denied them permit. In the last few weeks, a new opposing group emerged dubbed #notinmyname which also planned to counter-demonstrate, saying the #Occupywestfield demo is totally unnecessary since NAWEC has been given an ultimatum which hasn’t come to pass yet.
The #Occupywestfield group had been given permit to hold the long-awaited protest hours after Mai Fatty was relieved, with many linking his sacking to the issue. However, the police revoking the clearance a day later left many wondering why it was given when it would be revoked.
Even though it wasn’t the protest proper, as the group only wished to read their message to the public, some familiar faces like Harona Drammeh of Paradise FM and lawyer Salieu Taal, the founder of #GambiaHasDecided didn’t miss it. The gentlemen, alongside the leaders of the protest, were asked to leave Westfield and they complied.