PORT OF SPAIN — Deputy Commissioner of Police Mervyn Richardson said he intervened in the protest led by trade union leader Ancel Roget yesterday because he thought the protest was another coup attempt such as took place in 1990.
Roget, who is the president of the Joint Trade Union Movement, was detained for a few minutes by Richardson as he and members of JTUM protested on the second anniversary of the declaration of the limited State of Emergency.
Before taking him to the Central Police Station, Richardson informed Roget and his supporters that they were breaking the law. Asked by the media what law the protesters, who gathered outside the Hall of Justice on St. Vincent Street, Port of Spain, were breaking, Richardson responded by saying “the Public Festival Act”.
This prohibits people from blocking their faces outside of Carnival.
During the weekly press briefing at the Police Administration Building at Sackville Street, Port of Spain, yesterday, Richardson said the entire situation was “unfortunate”.
“The commissioner and I were at a meeting at the Ministry of National Security when I got word that there were people outside the Hall of Justice. People were fearful that another 1990 insurrection was about to take place because those persons there had their faces covered, dressed in black and had black pieces of sticks in their hands with flags,” Richardson said.
He added: “I left the National Security building, and went to the Hall of Justice and asked who are these people. One voice replied, ‘Check for Cabrera, check for Cabrera.’ I went along the line looking and while going through the line I recognised Ancel Roget. I asked him to please accompany me. At that time I thought it was a coup myself.”
Richardson said there were police there “standing by in readiness”.
“I asked Mr Roget to cease and desist from that because clearly he was breaking the law. No one knew who it was, their faces were all covered, they looked in a particular way, and I formed an opinion and in that aspect I asked him to remove himself and to accompany me to the police headquarters, where we had a discussion,” the DCP said.
Richardson said Roget was told what the law was, but Roget felt otherwise and only left after two attorneys came. He added that Roget said he would be going back, but he (Richardson) warned him that he should not return and continue with his protest since he had not made any application.
Also commenting on the matter at the press briefing was acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams, who said the law required that Roget seek permission to hold a public march.
Williams said the law does not allow people of their own volition to engage in public meetings and public marches, and Section 1:10 and Section 1:12 of the Summary Offences Act govern such activities.
“Once you engage in a public meeting or march without permission, it is illegal. Every union leader in Trinidad and Tobago is supposed to know the law, and not every time we face a situation where somebody is in breach of the law the first course of action is to arrest and charge, we need to balance things in the country,” Williams said.
Williams asked what was the difficulty in applying to march when all that is required is that the request be made no less than 48 hours and no more than 14 days prior.
“We have not been refusing anyone permission once we could effectively police the event. We have to be a lawful society. Those who complain of lawlessness are the very said people who are engaging in lawlessness,” Williams added. (Express)