Police in the Gambia revoked the permit it had issued for a protest to be held in a strategic square, just outside the capital, Banjul citing security concerns.
Barely 24 hours after the firing of the country’s security minister and granting of a permit to #OccupyWestfield movement, the Police Chief Landing King reversed his decision, stopping Sunday’s protest.
“Our clearance has been revoked and nullified by the Government of the Gambia through the office of the Inspector General of Police. They came forwarded this conclusion: ‘for security reasons’,” said protest leader Alieu Bah.
Police Spokesperson Foday Conta said that the action by the police is necessitated due to an intelligence report, which has raised security concerns.
Authorities warned Saturday that taking part in the protest may lead to arrest and prosecution, urging the public not to join the protest organizers.
The #OccupyWestfield movement leaders said authorities have taken the Constitution into their own hands and allowing autocratic rules that restrict freedom to reign.
“The general public, especially parents are urged to advise their family members to desist from taking part in the demonstration. Anyone found wanting will be dealt with according to law,” Conta said in a statement on behalf of the Police Chief.
The police, who are now flip-flopping on approval and denials said there were counter-demonstrators that are bent on confronting the #OccupyWestfield protesters. They deployed squads around the protest ground but were later withdrawn.
Government supporters threatened to counter the protest and threats to were made to the lives of Bah and some of the movement leaders, accusing them of being funded by Diaspora dissidents to destabilize the country.
Activists say it was an act of intimidation and defies logic that they cannot provide security to protesters but have enough manpower to deploy armed riot officers to the Westfield Square.
“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,” said Bah.
The movement leaders said the Police Chief is choosing to look at them as troublemakers rather than citizens exercising their rights.
Occupy Westfield’s call for a nationwide protest is due to the dismal failure of the water and electricity company, which continues to plunge the country in darkness, a situation that has worsened under the Barrow administration.
Although the new administration is not responsible for the technical insolvency of the electricity and water company, which has been unable to deliver basic supply of water and electricity for almost 40 years, it is nevertheless, obligated to respect the constitution, which allows for citizens to peacefully gather and express themselves, in whatever form, as long as such assembly is lawful.