Several residents of Capitol Bypass Community took to the streets on Saturday, February 6, when they realized that officers of the Police Support Unit (PSU) and Sheriffs from the Civil Law Court at the Temple of Justice in Monrovia had come to evict them from lands owned by Jesse Payne.
The residents, in their fury early Saturday, grouped themselves into several units, set road blocks, threw stones and prevented vehicles from using the Bypass to access central Monrovia.
They were heard saying, “Since they think they can frustrate us in this country because they are the only people to bribe the court and police to take action against us, we will all spoil it. No peace for us, no peace for them too,” groups shouted in unison.
As the 20 PSU officers positioned nearby after their presence sparked the protest, they awaited further orders, which did not come until they were recalled to their headquarters on Capitol Hill on an order that reportedly came from the Minister of Justice.
A writ of re-possession from the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court presided over at the time by Judge Yussif D. Kaba, during the September 2015 term of court, necessitated the eviction and the subsequent riot.
The writ states: “You are hereby commanded to put the Respondent (Jesse C. Payne) in the above captioned cause of action in complete and unrestricted possession of the property/premises commencing in range IX of the plantation lands of Monrovia beyond the False Cape and bearing in the authentic records of said land number 33 to the Rockhole (East of Bassa Community) Anderson’s land or the Mesurado River and running thence beside the University of Liberia.
The land space in question contains about 48 acres to be identified by a registered/licensed land surveyor.
The writ of repossession said that the respondent is entitled to the above mentioned/described property/premises by virtue of a Supreme Court mandate/opinion dated June 29, 2010, and re-confirmed on the September 15, 2015, by Associate Justice in Chambers.
But while implementing the order on February 6, 2016, an affected party identified as Rookie Brown, told the Daily Observer that the PSU officers on that morning stormed his house, asking him to get out while at the same time allegedly throwing out his belongings.
“Police asked me what I was doing in the area and I said I live here, this is my place, because I have the mother’s deed to the area,” Brown said.
He added, “There is one man called Jesse Payne who claims that he has 48 acres of land extending from 12th Street to the new bridge near Slipway, and the land is not for him. My mother has a deed for the land we occupy, and the land was bought from one Charlie Johnson. He always comes to evict when Supreme Court is closed, but all cases he carried to the court in the past were thrown out.”
A female resident denied Jesse Payne ever owing the land in question and winning a case for the 48 acres in court, “but he reportedly paid money to the court and the police to evict us.”
Some of the court officers the Daily Observer spoke to rubbished this claim.
Ms. Willimena G. Stephens said, “We don’t even know whether a case about this land has gone to the Supreme Court, but are just seeing police this morning coming to evict people. When a case goes to court, people involved should be informed, but there has been no notification. Jesse Payne was once asked to survey the land he claims here, and this is what we know. We have gone to the President and she said they were going to resolve the matter. In fact, we went to the Lands and Mines Ministry and he could not show deed for the land he claims. He has no title deed to any land here.”
Siama Kpoto Jr., another resident, told this paper that case about the land has been in court for the past two years, and Jesse Payne was asked to only survey his means and bound and not to evict.
“To our surprise this morning, we saw more than 200 PUS officers storming our premises and we resisted. They went on beating some of our men and put them in detention, and the residents are saying that until their brothers can be released and sent to hospital, they will not leave the road,” Kpoto said.
Daniel A. Binda Sr. said he has been living in the community since 1987 and there has been no land issue involving him and Jesse Payne, noting that what he knows is Jesse Payne has been told to survey the 48 acres he claims to own and not to evict anyone because they all have their deeds.”
Madam Lucy Anderson in her reaction said she “had lived in the community since 1963 and there has been no claimer named Jesse Payne.
“We and our parents lived here and used to break wood and cut palm nuts during the days of Tubman. Jesse Payne does not own a piece of land here. Our parents bought land from one Charlie B. Johnson; and the next time Jesse Payne comes to break our houses, there will be bloodshed. We want Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to stop him because when he comes back again, it will be a different story all together,” she warned.
Another resident only identified as Mohammed said case involving Jesse Payne and residents of the area had been in court on two occasions, “but it is always thrown out because of lack of substantial evidence.”
On the issue of the riot, Mohammed said, “It is not good to riot, but in our society riot works because if the common people do not rise up, things cannot work in their interest.”
During the course of the riot, Jesse Payne was nowhere to be found, and neither the police nor the sheriffs could talk to the press.