For the first time during ongoing protests over the Constitution (Amendment) 2014 Bill, riot police assumed a dominant position and police had to physically remove People’s National Movement (PNM) supporters from protesting directly in front of the Parliament building at Wrightson Road, Port of Spain, yesterday.
The police who normally kept vigil had to move beyond the barricades and interact physically with the small knot of angry protestors. Several people were manhandled. Heated exchanges ensued between the police and protesters. The police said they were acting on a directive to remove the protesters and send them to another designated area closer to the Breakfast Shed entrance. They would also be closer to the yellow-shirted People’s Partnership supporters. The police did not state which official gave the directive. But it was done under the House of Representatives (Powers and Privileges Act), it was later explained.
During the fracas, one man was carted off while taking photographs and another, Osei McKnight, for beating a drum.
Starting Monday night and from as early as 6 a.m. yesterday, protesters against the Amendment Bill and its run-off provision gathered to register their angst. But when the directive came, consensus among the protesters was they were not moving because they had consistently engaged in non-violent protest.
Among those who arrived on the scene was Merle Hodge, a member of the Constitutional Reform Committee, who had criticised the run-off provision.
As the morning unfolded, president of Fixin T&T, Kirk Waithe, arrived on the scene and attempted to pacify the situation. He urged the protesters to maintain calm because if they allowed anarchy to prevail they would have lost all they had worked for in generating discussion and opposition to the controversial bill.
Meanwhile, the protesters stood their ground. Eventually the police returned to their original directive. They pushed protestors from the front of the building where they had been accustomed to setting up camp.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
(POWERS AND PRIVILEGES) ACT
9. (1) Where any persons to the number of twelve or more come in a riotous, tumultuous or disorderly manner to the precinctsof the House while the House or any committee is sitting in order either to hinder or to promote the passing of any Bill, resolution, or other matter pending before the House or such committee, they are each liable on summary conviction to a fine of two thousand dollars and to imprisonment for twelve months.
(2) Where any person incites any other persons to come in a riotous, tumultuous or disorderly manner to the precincts of the House while the House or any committee is sitting in order either to hinder or to promote the passing of any Bill, resolution or other matter pending before the House or such committee, he is liable on summary conviction to a fine of two thousand dollars and to imprisonment for twelve months.
Section 10: a) (b) assaults, obstructs, molests or insults any member coming to, being within, or going from the precincts of the House, or endeavours to compel any member by force, insult or menace to declare himself in favour of or against any proposition or matter pending or expected to be brought before the House or any committee.