By Amin Kef-Ranger
In a Press Release issued by the Sierra Leone Police, dated 6th July, 2022, it was stated that the public will recall that during the weekend of 2nd and 3rd July 2022, social media were awash with video, audio, and text messages about planned demonstrations in Sierra Leone that were scheduled for Monday 4th July, 2022.
The Sierra Leone Police continued that it is no secret that some of the text, video and audio messages were laced with threats of killing drivers, motorcyclists, Police Officers and soldiers.
It furthered that following from the above, its Management published a Press Release which clearly stated that no person or group was granted permission to embark on demonstrations on the said date.
The press release, according to the Police, further noted that organizing or participating in any unauthorized demonstration contravenes provisions of the Public Order Act 1965.
The Sierra Leone Police (SLP) said it would like to inform the public that despite the Press Release from the Police, some protesters were out in the streets of Freetown, Lungi, Port Loko, Mile 91 and Magburaka, on Monday 4th July 2022, whereby police officers arrested a total number of fifty seven (57) of those protesters.
It added how the arrests were contingent on the following: a) the protesters never had permission from the Inspector General of Police to demonstrate; and b) to preserve their (protesters) safety; as it was likely that hoodlums and miscreants could have infiltrated and hijack the demonstrations, given the fact that serious threats of killings of people were already distinctly made on social media, in respect of same.
Also stated was that Madam Femi Claudius Cole and Dr. Dennis Bright were arrested and detained for incitement at the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) on July 3, 2022.
The Police underscored that their arrest came against repeated cautions from the Police to be law abiding and to also maintain the peace at all times.
It said for the records, during the Mid-Term Census, they were both publicly involved in inciting people not to participate in the process for which they were invited to the CID for interrogation but they were later cautioned and released.
The Sierra Leone Police stated that on another occasion, Dr. Dennis Bright was invited to the CID, where he was interrogated, cautioned and released, after a video surfaced of him addressing some marshals (a group that has been outlawed and banned from operating in Sierra Leone) during the run up to the Ward 156 Koya bye-election.
It pointed out that similarly, Madam Femi Claudius Cole was seen in the company of several women, preparing placards, rehearsing songs and issuing out threats against the Police and military, if they disallowed their unauthorized July 4 planned demonstrations.
According to the Police, despite all of those, the Management of the SLP agreed to caution and unconditionally release all protesters arrested on Monday July 4, as they are considered to be first time offenders, an action it said has been done and to also release Madam Femi Claudius Cole and Dr. Dennis Bright, but they should be warned to be reporting at the CID Headquarters, until otherwise rescinded or any other determination that could be made.
The Sierra Leone Police concluded by stating that everyone is therefore encouraged to be law abiding, peaceful and to go about his or her normal lawful business and be assured that the Sierra Leone Police will continue to serve him or her better.
It must be noted that the release of all fifty four (54) suspects came on the day they were expected to appear in Court on allegations of riotous conduct and illegal procession, contrary to the laws of the land.
Before their release, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Ambrose Michael Sovula informed that they have been profile and were to be charged to court following the completion of investigations into their conducts.
His duties, he said, are not guided by political ideologies as alleged by some sector of the public but by the dictates of the 1991 constitution, the police laws and his conscience.
He said the Police do not investigate Political parties but criminals and went on to inform them that they have right to protest but it must be done following the due process of the law.
The Inspector General encouraged them to go back home and help in their own ways to contribute to nation building and desist from being used by politicians.