The headquarters of the opposition Liberty Party, where hundreds of partisans from the four collaborating political parties gathered on Wednesday, July 31, 2019, to celebrate the pre-victory of their candidates, was nearly invaded by rioters, had it not been for police in their riot gear to bring the situation under control.
Yesterday’s pre-victory celebrations were being held for Abraham Darius Dillon and Telia Urey, candidates in the just ended Montserrado County senatorial and District #15 representative by-elections, ahead of the final results that authorities of the National Elections Commission (NEC) are yet to announce.
Until a handful of riot police could arrive, the celebration had degenerated into heavy riot characterized by throwing of stones, resulting in the police deploying teargas to quell the riot and restore order.
Police were already on the scene to ensure free flow of traffic, as the crowd overflowed beyond the fence of the LP headquarters. However, some trouble-makers took advantage of the situation and began throwing stones and causing other disturbances.
The incident, which stalled traffic along the Tubman Boulevard for several hours, came to an abrupt end when the baton-wielding police officers reported arrested two individuals in connection to the stone-throwing. Sources say those throwing stones were partisans of the CDC, an assertion that could not be independently confirmed.
Police Deputy (102) Director for Operations Marvin Sarkor, informed the Daily Observer that the police were “trying to put the tension under control before conducting an investigation.”
“In cases like riots, police often used teargas to take control of the situation,” Sarkor added.
Prior to the riot, members of the collaborating parties, sang and danced to the songs that members of the ruling establishment once sang when they were in opposition, as well as recent popular songs, such as: “Born to Win”, “They Lie To Us”, and “Gbeyama”.
However, those in attendance at the pre-victory celebration at the LP headquarters said they had reason to believe that suspected members of the ruling Coalition for Democracy Change (CDC) reportedly left their party’s headquarters less than a mile away, shortly after a press conference held by Mayor Jefferson Koijee, to proceed to the LP office to cause trouble.
At that press conference, Mayor Jefferson T. Koijee, who is also youth chairman of the CDC, called on the youth of his party to carry themselves as “respecters of Liberia’s democracy.” In the same breath, however, he cautioned his audience of what he described as “the wave of things that seem to threaten the peace and democracy of our country.”
He added: “What we fought for, we will not sit here as spectators and watch it come under attack by those friends who believe that nothing good can ever happen under our watch. Moving forward, when there is any called demonstration, as lawmakers can lead… we want to assure the public and the international community, we will be protectors of our democracy. We will be on the scene also. We will lead such forces also.”
Koijee said the CDC has decided to state its official decision on the just-ended Montserrado County by-elections “after the NEC shall have announced the official results.” He called on the youth of the party to be “calm and party-disciplined and to not jump into any other action that is not in conformity with our party doctrine and philosophy.”
No sooner had he said this, he added: “How can you have elections, and people jump into the street and begin to threaten our democracy? Do you think we will sit as spectators? No! If no one will do that, the Youth League (of the CDC) will protect the democracy of this country. Don’t think because I serve as a mayor; we will be on the front-burner. We will lead our people like we led them before. We will be there — any day that will be announced here by anyone, we want to say to you, similar day will be announced by us. And wheresoever you are we will also be there and we will meet in flesh and blood, and as Liberians, and to see exactly whether you got the capacity to threaten our peace.”
Koijee did not name those who he was accusing of “threatening Liberia’s democracy”. However, that same day was the expected date of a new planned protest by the Council of Patriots (COP), organizers of the famous “Save the State” protest on June 7, 2019. The new protest, was expected to commence on Wednesday, July 31 and continue for one week, since President George M. Weah had so far refused to respond to any of the CoP’s demands outlined in a petition from the June 7 protest.
However, CoP chairman Henry Pedro Costa said the weeklong protest that was expected to commence on July 31 was concealed in order for the CoP to allow NEC the opportunity to release results of the by-elections. Meanwhile they (CoP) would be celebrating at LP headquarters until the final results are announced.”
He informed journalists at a news conference in Monrovia that, while they are yet to receive the preliminary results from the NEC, the tally sheets in their position clearly indicate that the two candidates of the collaborating parties are already in the lead.
Before then, Henry Pedro Costa, chairman of the Council of Patriots (CoP), informed journalists at a news conference in Monrovia that, while they are yet to receive the preliminary results from the NEC, the tally sheets in their position clearly indicate that the two candidates of the collaborating parties are already in the lead.
Costa said that such signs of victory coming from the ordinary Liberians show that they are committed to positive change, having been tired with the bad governance system of the Weah administration, stressing the need to improve the living conditions of Liberians.
He added, “CoP want to thank the Liberian people for listening to us, and the leaders of the collaborating parties by turning up in your huge numbers to vote for the change you desired.”
Mr. Dillion, for his part, thanked Liberians for their unflinching support and called on them to maintain the hard earned peace the country now enjoys.
“I am going to the Capitol Building not to change for the worst, but to do more work in the interest of the Liberian people who trusted me with their votes,: Dillion declared, to the delight of his supporters.
In a related development, during the early morning hours of Wednesday, July 31, police officers and other protesters, who were reportedly part of the CoP, clashed at the beginning of what was supposed to be a “peaceful protest” on the grounds of the Capitol Building in continuation of the June 7 “Save the State” protest.
The protest yesterday was initially planned for July 24, 2019, two days to Liberia’s 172nd Independence celebration. However, following a statement from the United States Embassy describing the CoP’s plans to practically upstage the official Independence Day as as ‘misplaced’, the CoP rescheduled the protest to take place on July 31.
As per planned, the CoP protesters gathered at the Capitol to access the main street dividing the Capitol and the Executive Mansion, but were prevented from using the grounds of the Capitol, where they had assembled on June 7.
Some of the Executive Protection Service (EPS) personnel denied anyone, who was without an identification card from using the main route from the Capitol Hill leading towards the Executive Mansion.
The two opposing groups were quieted following Wednesday morning’s heavy downpour that lasted for more than two hours.