By Hannah N. Geterminah and Tina Mehnpaine
The anti-rape march on August 25 held no political biases but, in the case of Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillion, elements among the protesters saw him as the exception when he arrived on the scene, in spite of the fact that he appeared to be visibly in solidarity with the protesters.
Senator Dillion, an incumbent in the pending Senatorial election, was on his way to session when he met the protesters who had blocked the main street that links Central Monrovia via the Tubman Boulevard. In his act of solidarity, he disembarked his vehicle with an anti-rape poster to walk toward the Capitol Building, but could not easily make his way amid heavy attack by the protesters asking him to leave. The protesters attacked the Senator with bags of water and stones while he walked with members of his office staff. Interestingly, some officials of government and loyalists of the ruling party were also seen in the group protesting against rape but, as Dillon appeared, some protesters turned angry and began attacking him to leave the scene.
Before the protest, many political institutions had registered their interest to join. With the embarrassing situation encountered during the protest, the organizers in a press statement said: “We want to categorically state that at no time we have invited political institutions to participate in our planned protest, and all those who have expressed interest in this protest did it by their own volition. Political institutions who have expressed interest are Liberians who have such rights to assemble, but should understand that this protest is civil and everyone is mandated to follow as we lead. We will take legal action against any political party that intends to disrupt our civil protest to raise our voices against rape.”
Even though there were lots of politicians including Bernard Benson (commonly known as DJ Blue), an aspirant in the December 8 Senatorial Elections; Fubbi Henries; Deputy Information Minister Eugene Fahngon; and Montserrado County District #6 Representative Samuel Enders, among others, Senator Dillion’s presence disrupted the entire march for hours as some people began throwing rocks and bags of water at him. The police, however, was able to restore peace at last.
Protesters believed to be supporters of Senator Dillion were shouting, “Leave the man, he has come to protest, that’s our Senator and we want him here.” Others of contrary views were also shouting, “We do not need politicians here, he wants to steal the show.”
Before the protest could begin, Patience S. Korti, one of the organizers, said: “We want to send a clear message out to the general public that you are Liberians and we cannot stop you from standing up on issues of rape because you have families. You have the full rights to stand up against rape, but we want to let you know that our media group covering this protest will not be allowed to interview a politician who will make political statements. If we notice that, we will disrupt the interview.”
Abigail Thomas, a protester said, “Dillion is a Liberian who is in solidarity with rape victims and survivors across the country and he has the right to come and form a part and, as such, he should not be intimidated by anyone.
“In fact, Montserrado County has the highest numbers of rape cases and Dillion is a Senator. So, he should be given the opportunity to come among the protesters and not to be chased out,” Abigail added.
Mark Edward, another protester, said at no point in time they invite political actors to form part of the march. Therefore, he believes, Dillion should be at the Legislature making laws that will strengthen the justice system. He said Dillion only came to buy public sentiment, not with the clear intent to speak for those who have been sexually abused and need justice. Amid the argument, it is yet unclear why some protesters would allow other politicians to participate in the protest with the exception of Dillon.