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Police were too tolerant during protest – COP

Police were too tolerant during protest – COP
Mr Colin O John, Commissioner of Police

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Commissioner of Police (COP), Colin John has acknowledged that the police slipped up during the protest on August 5 during which Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves was struck on his head and injured.

John said the police were “too tolerant” and did not enforce the law on that day as he apologized to the Prime Minister for what transpired.

Since the protest the police have sought to educate the public on the Public Order Act.

Speaking on the police “On the Beat” program on NBC radio on Monday, the Commissioner, Assistant Superintendent of Police John Ballah, and Petty Officer Junior Baptiste went into detail on the different sections which convey certain powers on the police when it comes to public processions and meetings.

At the beginning of this programme, the Commissioner stated that he would not speak directly to the incident that resulted in a concussion to the Prime Minister by a projectile thrown from a protester as this is a matter before the court, but would speak about the events that transpired generally.

“The date of the 5th of August 2021 is a very dark day in the history of St Vincent and the Grenadines(SVG), a day where some members of the public, apparently supported by members of a political party, mounted what I would say, without fear of contradiction, and you will see why I say that as I go forward they mounted an illegal protest.”

John, a trained lawyer said that according to the legislation, he should have been given 24 hours notice of any meeting/ procession. During the discussion, the officer asserted that “no notice was given to me as Commissioner of Police of the protest action last Thursday so therefore the organisers and the persons who, everyone who took part in that procession or protest could be charged for breach of the Public Order Act.”

He said that “Several persons, including the Prime Minister were assaulted and I just want to use this forum to humbly apologise to the Prime Minister on behalf of the members of the organisation for what transpired generally and what happened to him personally”.

“I would be the first, and I think I’m man enough to publicly admit that the police on that day, performed below par. The police we were, in my opinion and from my observation, too tolerant on that day, we did not enforce the law on that day,”the COP added.

He said that briefings have been conducted since and deficiencies identified would not be allowed to happen in future.

On Monday’s radio programme the Commissioner pointed out that “Parliament in its wisdom realised that from time to time persons may want to protest or may want to have public meetings. They are not saying that it should

not happen, but certain guidelines and certain prerequisites set out before these meetings are held and I do not think they are very onerous.”

Speaking two days later on the Round Table Talk, with host Theresa Daniel, the Prime Minister touched on the topic of the performance of his security detail.

“…I have confidence in my personal security and I want to thank them, and thank those brave officers who tried additionally to offer me protection,” he first stated.

“But I will say something, the police, not these particular officers, the police earlier, should have realised that riotous conduct was taking place.”

The Prime Minster said he was not using this word “ill-advisedly”, submitting that he was quoting New Democratic Party(NDP) member Kay Bacchus- Baptiste who apparently described the protest at a press conference on August 7 as a “peaceful riot”.

“I don’t know what is a peaceful riot. A riot by definition is a commotion of a number of people, civil commotion of a number of people, with riotous or disorderly behaviour, which is the antithesis of peaceful. A peaceful riot is oxymoronic language,” Gonsalves pointed out. The Prime Minister, who said he is still experiencing disorientation from the head injury, pondered how something could be peaceful when his head was “buss” and a fire was lit.

He said that the police had shown extraordinary restraint.

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