Protesters Announce New Date Amid U.S. Ambassador’s Criticism

MONROVIA, Montserrado – The organizer of the June 7 protest, the Council of Patriots, has announced an adjustment in the date of its second protest earlier scheduled to kick-off during the week of July 26.

During a press conference on July 12, the group had said it would stage a second protest that would last for several days beginning on July 24, two days ahead of the country’s 172nd Independence Day anniversary.

Henry Costa, the group’s chairman, however, announced on Friday that an adjustment has been made in the timing of the protest and that the new date for the kickoff of the exercise is Wednesday, July 31, 2019, instead of July 24.

Costa said the decision to change the date of the exercise was reached during a meeting on Thursday, less than 24 hours after U.S. ambassador to Liberia, Christine Elder, issued a strong statement against the holding of a planned protest during the week of the July 26 Independence Day celebrations.

Elder said while the U.S. Embassy supports the rights of citizens to lawfully apply to assemble or convey their views to elected officials, the protesters’ intent to do so during the week of July 22 is “misplaced.”

“As the COP press release specifically calls on the international community to join their ‘long march,’ the U.S. Embassy responds by sharing its view that, particularly from a group carrying the banner ‘Council of Patriots’ and from a group which avows that patriotism remains central to their efforts, staging such actions as they have outlined, during independence celebrations, would instead convey a lack of commitment to national development,” the statement continued.

“Ideally, events surrounding upcoming national celebrations should be devoid of partisan promotion or posturing, focusing instead on working together for the common good of the Liberian people.”

Darius Dillon, who has been one of the protest leaders, said the adjustment in the date of the planned protest was out of courtesy for Liberia’s long-standing traditional partner, the U.S. He clarified that the adjustment was only in the timing of the protest, rather than a cancellation.

“The statement from the U.S. government or the U.S. Embassy cannot run contrary to the constitutional right that we have as contained in Article 17 of the constitution of Liberia. The statement from the U.S. Embassy cannot run contrary to Article 1 of the constitution of Liberia. The statement from the U.S. Embassy is saying we should be considerate of the timing of our protest,” he said.

He said the original date was meant to take advantage of the national Independence Day celebrations to let international guests know that the citizens were not happy because President George Weah was not proceeding in line with citizens’ aspirations.

“We have a president who listens only to himself and the big powers around the world,” he said.

He said the pre-July 26 protest date was also in keeping with their promise to do a second round of protest if the government failed to respond to the concerns in their petition, presented one month ago.

“Those demands listed in our petition – we know that the president could not fulfill all within 30 days. And our 30-day demand was not intended for the president to address all of those issues. Our 30-day demand was to give the president a period where he will read our petition, acknowledge our petition, and then, say when and how, and what he can do as contained in our petition,” Dillon said.

“For instance, we don’t need dialogues for the president to publish his assets; we don’t need dialogues. We don’t need dialogues for the president to do a lot of things.”

However, Dillon acknowledged the need to dialogue with the president on other governance issues such as the economy and other critical sectors.

Meanwhile, Costa assured that the protest would take place nationwide continuously until the president officially responds to their demands.

Featured photo by Zeze Ballah

Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. In 2017, Senah won three Press Union of Liberia awards: Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Land Rights Reporter of the Year. In 2018, he was also recognized as the Land Rights Reporter of the Year.

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