Liberia: Police Launch Teargas At Angry Protesters

Police launched teargas Tuesday, 3 August in Monrovia to disperse protesters hours after a group besieged the premises of the Temple of Justice and the entrance of the Liberia National Police (LNP) headquarters demanding justice and speedy trial over the death of a truck driver Alieu Sheriff following an encounter with police recently.

Prior to his demise, police were said to have pulled the late Sheriff over to address issues with the truck he was driving, but the protesters believe that his death resulted from his encounter with three police officers. A series of protests have been held by his kinsmen since the incident, but Tuesday's protest saw a lot of partakers walking from Japan Freeway, formerly Somalia Drive, to the LNP Headquarters, calling for a speedy investigation into the death of Sheriff.

According to family members of the late Sheriff, he was allegedly flogged by officers of the LNP when he went to ask them to release his truck. Since the incident, the protesters claimed, nobody from the government or LNP has visited the family, leaving them to think that the government doesn't care about them.

They carried banners during the protest which initially appeared peaceful in the premises of the Temple of Justice and at the entrance of the LNP Headquarters, but it later turned violent as police tried to disperse the crowd.

Prior to the violence, some of the protesters had crossed the police barricade and were holding Islamic prayers at noon in the premises of the LNP headquarters. Initially, police tolerated some of those seeking to hold prayers beyond the police barricade, but as the number increased, the police could no longer allow the protesters in, asking them to remain where they were.

In events leading to the violence, the protesters had besieged the grounds of the Temple of Justice, the entrance of the Liberia National Police headquarters, and some even occupied the main street leading to the Capitol Building and obstructed the movement of vehicles, demanding justice and speedy trial over the death of Sheriff.

Soon things went helter-skelter as protesters tried to resist police orders to disperse, and several tear gas canisters were launched to disperse the crowd.

In their demand for justice and speedy trial of those allegedly involved in the encounter with the late Sheriff, the protesters vowed to remain in the street until they can get justice.

Mr. Mark Jabateh, one of the leaders of the protesters, assured his kinsmen that justice would prevail, but claimed that "if justice [doesn't] prevail on the other side, it will prevail on the other side."

"If you believe in me, if you respect me, I want you to keep silent, sit and wait for us. We are in [a] meeting with the Internal Affairs Minister, we are in [a] meeting with the police and uh, the hierarchies of the police," Jabateh said.

He added that they want to make sure that police brutality will stop and that they also will make sure that "even the international community, they will get concerned about Liberia [very] soon."

Internal Affairs Minister Varney Sirleaf said the matter regarding the late Sheriff has reached the attention of President George Manneh Weah, saying the president has ordered that the matter be looked into speedily.

Mr. Sirleaf assured that there will be transparency in the investigation, adding that the investigation will be speedy and just, cautioning that this cannot be done "in the midst of rioting.

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