Maputo — The Mozambican police detained over 50 people who erected barricades on Sunday along a stretch of the Maputo ring road, according to a report in Wednesday's issue of the independent daily "O Pais".
The demonstrators are residents of the Matlemele neighbourhood in the southern city of Matola. They told reporters they erected barricades on the road because they were dissatisfied with the resettlement of families who must be moved to make way for a new landfill at Matlemele. They could see nothing wrong with interrupting traffic on the road for several hours.
"We decided we had to do something to draw attention", one of the demonstrators, Palmiro Artur, told "O Pais". A second protestor, Zelio Rute, said "We went there to block the road, and three of our colleagues were arrested".
When the police arrived, they ordered the crowd to disburse and fired tear gas. The demonstrators held their ground, and the police had to call for reinforcements to remove the barricades. It was at this point that the first three arrests were made.
Some protestors then went to the police station where the three were being held. More people arrived to swell the demonstration on Monday. Despite claims that the protestors were doing nothing violent, members of the riot police were sent to arrest them all.
The police confirmed the arrests, and said they had detained the demonstrators only to guarantee public order and security. They said the protestors were armed with such weapons as stones and clubs.
"The police asked them to speak with the Commander, but they did not accept that order", said Juarce Martins, the spokesperson for the Maputo Provincial Police Command. "So the decision was taken to throw them all in the cells, because they were taking part in a criminal activity".
They spent the night behind bars, and on Tuesday morning, a local court ordered their release, but fined the group 23,000 meticais (about 383 dollars) , or 449 meticais each.