The Minister of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), Samuel D. Tweah, Jr., Montserrado County Senator Saah H. Joseph and Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson T. Koijee, were on Wednesday, August 26, booed by angry protesters who had gone to present a petition to President George M. Weah for stringent actions against rape, a crime that is increasing daily across the country.
The protest, which began on Tuesday, August 25, continued on Wednesday with protesters calling for strengthening the justice system to allow rape survivors to get justice as a means of abolishing the harmful act against women, girls, and boys.
The protesters’ anger grew yesterday when one of Minister Tweah’s bodyguards emerged from the Minister’s vehicle, telling them (protesters): “[you all] should not be misled by the opposition.”
The office staff then opened the door of the car for Minister Tweah to disembark and, upon stepping out, he was greeted with the noise of disapproval from the protesters, leaving him with no opportunity to say a word to them.
As they booed Minister Tweah, the protesters were shouting, “No working until President Weah accepts our petition, we [do] not want Tweah, we want George Weah. Budget surplus, go call George Weah to come to us, we are the same people that elected him.”
Following Tweah was Senator Saah Joseph, who appeared at the protest in a convoy, trying to make his way to the Senate for session in the midst of the crowd. With the intent of disembarking to greet the protesters, Senator Joseph got down and became overwhelmed by roaring shouts: “Rogue, rogue, rogue, go make laws that will protect women, leave from here, and legislate policy that will protect the women that voted for you.”
Unlike Senator Darius Dillon who walked on the Tubman Boulevard leading to the Capitol to get back to his office amid attack on August 25 during the protest, Sen. Joseph left the protesters, got in his vehicle, and used the Jallah Town road to access the Capitol.
About three hours later, Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee and his city police arrived, requesting the protesters to open the road to allow him to speak to their leaders. Again, the angry crowd booed at him and asked him to leave the street.
The Mayor’s security detail attempted to raise tension but the officers of the Liberia National Police contained the tension.
David Nadge, one of the protesters said: “We want the President to know that we are serious about this march. We are not here with any political intention; we are here to demand our leaders to give us justice for those babies and girls that have been raped and some died as a result.”
William S. Freeman, another protester, said: “It breaks my heart to see a grown-up man sexually assaulting 3, 4 and 15-year-old babies.’’
On the argument of girls and women wearing clothes that expose sensual parts of their body, Freeman said this does not provide any justifiable reason for men to rape women.
“Dress code should not be an excuse to molest and harass a female; men should be able to control their sexual feelings,” he said.
Without fear, the protesters blocked the road which caused traffic congestion in central Monrovia for the second day in a row.
On the first day of the protest, the protesters refused to hand over their petition to the Gender and Social Protection Minister Williametta Sayde-Tarr and her Deputy, Mamensie Kaba, who were sent by President Weah. The protesters explained that if they had the intent to meet ministers, they would have taken their petition to the Gender ministry. According to them, the issue of rape is a serious matter that requires the presence of the President to receive the petition and not ministers who have heard the alarming rape cases but have yet to show any concern.
Responding to the protesters and defending her position, Minister Saydee-Tarr said the President was not informed about the protesters’ demand and, therefore, he could not come down to receive the petition, but assured the protesters that she would inform the President so that he can meet with their leaders.
Again, the protesters did not present their petition to the President on the second day and promised to take to the street today, August 27. They were in the street up to 3:30 p.m. before adjourning for the day.