The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) wants citizens to know their rights are respected and recognised by the men and women in the service. This was the message yesterday from ASP Joanne Archie during the weekly news briefing at Riverside Plaza, Port of Spain, less than 24 hours after policemen and citizens clashed outside Parliament, International Waterfront Centre, Port of Spain, during protests over the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2014.
On Tuesday morning, officers had to move beyond the barricades and interact physically with a small group of angry 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 on Wrightson Road. Yesterday, while the ASP could not say if the lawmen involved were acting under the instructions of the acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams, she said that the actions of the officers were in keeping with their directives to preserve law and order.
“We the members of the TTPS respect the rights of citizens. Our first priority when deploying police officers to the scene of a protest is to preserve the peace and exercise crowd control. We are quite aware that communities, social activists and political groups use marches, rallies, vigils and peaceful protest demonstrations to focus attention on their causes. In fact we are instructed and guided by our own standing orders to be tactful and avoid confrontation with parties.
However we know that citizens would be passionate about whatever the cause may be, but all we are asking is that while you hold passionate to your cause, because it is democracy at work, please do so within the confines of the law. As police officers we are here to ensure the safety and protection of all citizens regardless of race, creed or class or political affiliation,” Archie said.
She noted that no one was arrested or charged on Tuesday during the confrontation. “No one was charged. But note, if you block the footpath or pavement, that is an offence of obstruction. A police officer could exercise a discretion in that regard and detain and charge a person, but we are not about confrontation,” Archie said.