Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith has warned citizens that while it is their right to protest, it must not infringe on the rights of others.
A statement from the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service yesterday quoted Griffith as saying: “It is the constitutional right of any citizen to freedom of speech. However, there are also laws that all must adhere to whilst protesting and adhering to your constitutional right to protest.”
He added: “No law-abiding citizen must believe that your constitutional rights must impose on the constitutional rights of others, whereby for example, if you block a public road, you now infringe on the constitutional rights of others for freedom of movement, which at times can include serious matters, such as persons needing immediate medical attention and trying to get a loved one to a medical facility, or parents trying to collect their child. It is your right to protest. But it must be done with approval and not infringing on the rights of others.”
The release made reference to three scenarios over the past three days in which it was said “citizens have turned to breaking the law in an effort to get media and public sensationalism, in the hope that they can get their concern recognised and hence put pressure on authorities to act accordingly”.
It said: “The first involved the orchestrated act by certain residents in Moruga, whereby roads were blocked with debris, in an effort to get the relevant attention to voice their concern for the selection of a political candidate.
“CCTV and media footage of those who were at the site would be used to have such persons brought in for questioning to ascertain what knowledge they have of this act.”
It added: “The CoP wishes to advise anyone, especially as we approach a general election, that any such acts, inclusive of those who block roads in an effort to have their concern aired as it pertains to public utilities being provided for the community, the police would take the necessary action and those responsible would be arrested pursuant to Section 64 N of the Summary Offences Act Chapter 11:02, and further to which, if any public protest is made without the requisite permission they would be arrested pursuant to Section 109 of the Summary Offences Act Chapter 11:02.”
The second alleged incident outlined in the release was that of “an activist who also had a concern in relation to a road being constructed...If persons want to make themselves famous and have pre-planned escapades to have themselves arrested, the CoP wishes to give that assurance to such persons, that he would graciously accede to their request and they would be arrested forthwith, pursuant to Section 46 of the Police Service Act Chapter 15:01 for breaching the peace and, or obstruction of the police in the execution of their duty, or, unlawful protesting pursuant to Section 109 of the Summary Offences Act Chapter 11:02.”
It was also said that earlier this week several activists had silent, seated protests outside the prime minister’s residence.
“They were reminded that for such actions, they required approval from the CoP, upon which it was submitted and approval was given. Failure to acquire such approval and persons are gathered, they can be arrested for a breach of Section 109 of the Summary Offences Act Chapter 11:02,” the release stated.