heated protest: Osei McKnight is on the ground as he is warned by police during the protest which took place Tuesday outside the Parliament building, International Waterfront Centre, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain against the Constitution Amendment Bill (2014). —Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

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Ex-LifeSport coach: Brutalised by police for beating drum

By Michelle Loubon

While beating his drum, former basketball coach of the defunct LifeSport programme Osei McKnight claimed he was accosted by a police officer Tuesday outside the Parliament, International Waterfront Centre, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain. McKnight, 35, was among the many protesters who had gathered at the start of debate in the Senate to show disapproval of the run-off provision in the Constitution (Amendment) 2014 Bill. The riot police went into action to restrain the people who refused to obey the directive to move from the front of the Parliament building.

McKnight claimed although he put his hands in the air when the police instructed him to stop beating the drum, he was still pushed to the ground. McKnight, was spotted crying and yelling on the cold asphalt. A small group of people had closed in on him and the police. They claimed McKnight was being unfairly treated and the police had no right to treat him in such a crude manner. They appealed to the riot police to leave him alone. Instead, he was taken away by police with media personnel in tow. He said he was put to sit on a chair next to the Parliament building away from the public.

Sgt (Elcock) told him it was illegal to beat the drum and eventually he was released and returned to the protest with his friends. While McKnight was lying on the ground, he said: “This is brutality. I am being brutalised even though I did not do anything wrong. That is no way for the police to treat anyone.” When he returned to join his group of friends, McKnight said: “I don’t know since when it is illegal to beat a drum. Drumming is part of our culture.

We beat drums for Emancipation. The police are displaying bias.”
Reliving the ordeal, he said: “When the policeman told me it was illegal, I put my hand on the air. A woman who was behind me started to beat the drum. And she said, ‘Why, Why, Why?’ And the police started to rough me up. They held me and I ended up falling on the ground. One police raffed my neck and jersey. Another tried to pull me into the police vehicle.

I started to cry. It is a long time since I cried.” Asked about the run-off provision, he said: “I am not supporting it. It is not good for democracy.” Asked about the LifeSport programme, he said: “It is corrupt. There is no accountability for the $400 million. Young people are still suffering for a football, playground and basketball.”
He said the last time he worked was the end of July and he is still owed monies to the sum of about $11,000. McKnight said Tuesday he intends to seek legal advice to pursue the matter further. Via a telephone interview, he said: “I will be going to an attorney in the morning. I never knew it was illegal to beat a drum.”
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