by Rawlston Pompey
The small impoverished, sun-drenched, white sand beaches, 108 Square mile, tourism-based economy, nation of Antigua and Barbuda has not escaped the ravages of the ‘Coronavirus-19 Pandemic. None may deny that the ‘Coronavirus-19’has dominated every aspect of human lives. It has impacted the lives of every man, woman and child and nation in some fundamental way; (a) ‘…Medically; (b) …Socially; (c) …Religiously; and (d) …Economically.’ Even so, none may deny the dire need to protect the health of the citizenry by preventing its spread among the populace.
PREVENT AND CONTROL
Its population of ‘97, 118’ [Google: 2019] indigent, but God-fearing, peace-loving and law-abiding people have, experienced the bad and ugly. They have seen rather inconvenience and difficult measures being imposed upon them. Yet they have accepted that these were for the expressed intention of addressing medical and health issues. In fact, the measures were intended only to prevent super spreading of the deadly virus. Conversely, a ‘National Vaccine Inoculation Policy’ has been appropriately considered and implemented. Not only have medical resources, limited medical facilities and health workers have been; (i) ‘…Challenged; (ii) …Overwhelmed; (iii) …Overstretched; with (iii) …Burial grounds running out of ‘Burying Spaces,’ but have also been of serious concerns to the ‘Government.’
BEHAVIOR OF SECURITY FORCES
Evidence of the ‘Virus’ Carnage,’ has been widely reported from every corner of the Earth. In most of the affected nations, the ‘Coronavirus-19 Pandemic’ has been one thing, while the measures implemented have been another. Citizens however, have become more mortally afraid of the behavior of members of the ‘Security Forces,’ than of ‘Virus and Vaccines.’ That which seemed to have been provoking angst in the citizenry has been their ‘insensitive, heavy-handed and brutal tactical behavior.’ This may have been evident last ‘Sunday’ [August 8, 2021].
SWIFT AND DRAMATIC
When defiant protesters gathered in ‘St. John’s, their response was ‘Swift and Dramatic.’ As ‘Police Riot Squads,’ moved in to disperse gathering and grumbling protesters, pandemonium broke out around the ‘Sir Vere Cornwall Bird Bust.’ Neither could ‘Papa’ move, nor could he have prevented that which was poised to descend upon the disobedient, unruly and innocent. That which they may not have known was what was to be descended upon them. It was neither ‘Rain nor Manna from Heaven.’ However, it was to their awareness when two government-owned yellow 20-ton dump trucks rolled into the City of St. John’s. One-Way or not, it was clear that any accessible route to quell a protestation was to used.
FRIGHTENING ENGINES – CHOKING FUMES
The drivers reportedly drove furiously down the statutory north-bound ‘One-way driving directional Street.’ The revved-up Public Works-owned diesel-powered engines, emitting harmful exhaust fumes, was as frightening as the fumes were choking. Aboard were highly-motivated, adequately equipped and heavily armed ‘Riot Personnel.’ They were all clothed in the dreaded-looking black uniforms. Such speaks to a fierce group of men ready for any eventuality, confrontational and combative. Before the significant number of protesters could respond to the orders of ‘Tactical Unit Commander James ‘Jimmy’ Tonge’ could have said; ‘Disperse or I will use Tear Gas,’ pandemonium broke out. This reportedly came after ‘Ground Commander,’ Deputy Commissioner of Police, Albert M.P. Wade QPM’ had persuasively failed to influence compliance and obedience.
Growing anti-vaccine sentiments and other concerns saw the springing up of a ‘Leaderless Group’ called ‘Freedom Fighters.’ They saw those legally-bound to ‘Serve and Protect’ them as ‘Enemies of Freedom.’ When protesters converged upon the ‘Sir Vere Cornwall Bird Bust’ at Lower Market Street, they knew what the ‘Bust’ represents- Freedom; …Liberty and Justice.’ This commentary reflects upon developments within the nation. This followed theunscheduled and unwelcomed visit by the ‘Coronavirus-19 Pandemic.’ That which have been among the ‘Chronicled Events,’ occurring within this nation, includes; (i) ‘…Police storming, disquieting, disrupting and dispersing assembled Worshippers at the ‘Bolans New Testament Church of God’ [March 29, 2020]; (ii) …Arresting of Pastor Uriah Taylor and two congregants [Dominica News Online: March 30, 2020]; (iii) …Mass arrests of Curfew and Covid Protocols Breakers: (iv) …Imposition of hefty fines of EC$5, 000: (v) …Default payment that have attracted custodial sentences of 6 months at Her Majesty’s Prison [March 2020-]: (vi) …Alleged curfew-breaker disappearance and strangulation murder of Falmouth resident Bruce Greenaway [April 2020]; (vii) …Arrest of four (4) members of the Security Forces (1 Police officer/3 Soldiers).
Moreover, the commentary specifically looks at the ‘Public Order Act’ as it affects: (a) ..Application to organize public march; (b) …Refusal of Permit to hold public march; (c) …Denial of opportunity whereby an appeal may have been made within seven (7) days to the Minister with responsibility for the maintenance of law and order [POA: Chapter 357: Section 40]: (d) …Illegal gathering of protesters at the ‘Sir Vere Cornwall Bird Bust’ [Lower Market Street: August 8, 2021]; (e) …Tear Gas dispersing of protesters; (f) …Responding with harmful rubber projectiles,’ having been allegedly attacked by missile-throwing protesters; (g) …Searching of organizers homes for Firearms, ammunition, drugs, electronic devices and documents; (h) …Arrest of two female organizers with application of hand and foot cuffs’ [August 9, 2021].’
The ‘Public Order Act’ makes it sufficiently clear for even ‘Form III Students, Teachers and Principal’ at the ‘Sir Novell Richards Academy (SNRA)’ to understand. Moreover, it was also made easy for ‘Prime Minster Gaston Browne’s 10-month-old daughter to understand. It has been the view of many law-abiding citizens, parents and guardians that which reportedly occurred on ‘Smoky Sunday’ may have been averted. This may have been the case if those that reportedly ordered the use of ‘Tear gas and rubber projectiles’ against unarmed women and little girls, had approached the situation with ‘Discretion and Peace.’
QUICKLY GATHERED – QUICKLY SCATTERED
Moreover, if they had remembered the name of the Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s Daughter, – ‘Princess PEACE.’ Seemingly, there had been little ‘Security Intelligence’ or starvation of such intelligence or serious impairment of administrative judgment. One of these may have led to an underestimation of the will and resolve of the people. Thus, defiantly and without being issued the requisite permit to conduct a ‘Public March,’ scores of protesters made their presence felt in St. John’s. However, in a show and use of force that had triggered panic and fear in both protesters and by-standers, as quickly as they had ‘Gathered,’ as quickly they ‘Scattered.’
STATE SUBJECT TO LAW
A Commissioner of Police of average intelligence shall know stipulations contained in enforceable criminal law. Moreover, likened to the citizens, a Commissioner shall also be seen as showing ‘…undivided allegiance and obedience to the law.’ For instance, speaking to itself as the- ‘Supreme Law’ [CO: 1981: Section 2]. One of its founding principles states; (a) ‘…The people of Antigua recognize that the law symbolizes the public conscience; (b) …That every citizen owes to it an undivided allegiance, not to be limited by private views of justice, or expediency; and (c) …The State is subject to the Law’ [CO: 1981: Principle (e)].
Instructively, two females have been charged with committing offences under the ‘Public Order Act.’ Yet their homes were searched for items not connected to ‘Public Order or Public Safety’ [POA: Section 12]. Mindbogglingly, their homes were being rummaged by officers of the ‘Criminal Investigations Department (CID). Irrefutably, ‘Warrants to Search’ were issued. seemingly applied for, and obtained under ‘Questionable Circumstances.’ The search for items unrelated to an authorized march included; (a) …Illegally possessed Firearms; (b) …Ammunition; and (c) …Controlled Drugs.’ None were found and seized and no related charges have been slapped against them.
A Magistrate acting upon ‘Sworn Information,’ if so sworn, may have been duped. An applicant so sworn to such information knowing that he was dealing with matters of ‘Public Order and Public Safety,’ may have committed the serious indictable criminal offence of ‘Perjury.’ From professional law enforcement practice and familiarity with the ‘Public Order Act,’ when ‘Donette Simon and Shenel Williams’ were arrested they had not contravened any of the provisions of this Act. Moreover, neither defendant was anywhere near, at or in the vicinity of the ‘Sir Vere Cornwall Bird Bust at Market Square’ [St. John’s: Antigua and Barbuda].
From ‘Sir Wright Fitzhenly George KCN, CVO, QPM’ down and up to Sunday August 9, 2021, it has never been within professional knowledge that; (i) ‘…A Deputy Commissioner; (ii) …Superintendent; or (iii) …An Assistant Superintendent of Police’ reporting to a ‘Senior Sergeant,’ any contraventions that they had observed. This may happen when personnel are positioned well above the level of their professional competencies. It may very well prove prosecutorally difficult for arresting officer ‘Senior Sergeant Raymond Findlay’ and embarrassing to the Police administration to delegate and assigned him to conduct investigations into that he had not observed, but witnessed by his superiors. He may therefore, find it ‘Evidentially Troubling’ in adducing facts supportive of the charges.
CUFFED HANDS – SHACKLED FEET
For instance, he had not seen the defendants anywhere near to the events of Sunday [August 8, 2021], but at their respective ‘Tindale Road and Villa Residences.’ In all these, the two female defendants appeared to have been more distraught over the ‘Indiscretions and Insensitivity’ shown when they were not permitted to be hygienically fresh. Additionally, the indignities and humiliation suffered and psychological pain and anxieties experienced are of more concern to the citizenry, than of that which prosecutorally looms. These include their ‘Cuffed Hands and Shackled Feet.’ Criminal investigators know that such instruments of restraint, are reserved and applied to the hands and feet of the most vicious, violent, dangerous and deadly criminals. Such treatment could easily be frowned upon as that frowned upon by the ‘Constitution Order.’ This speaks to ‘…Degrading and inhuman treatment’ [CO: 1981: Section 7].
BEADS OF PERSPIRATION
Parliament pre-supposes that citizens may contravene certain provisions contained in the ‘Public Order Act.’ Consequently, it provides a ‘Power of Arrest’ to Police officers who would have seen or personally witnessed any person contravening such provisions. Facing a ‘Defence Team, comprising of Attorneys; (i) ‘…Charlesworth Tabor; (ii) …Leon ‘Chaku’ Symister; and (iii) …Wendell Robinson (former Police Commissioner),’ the ‘Arresting officer’ could see ‘Beads of Perspiration’ saturating his clothes. For the Act states; ‘…A member of the Police Force may arrest without a warrant any person who commits an offence against this Act ‘In His Presence’ or any person reasonably suspected by him to be committing or to have committed any offence against this Act’ [POA: Chapter 357: Section 38].
SERIOUS POLICE BLUNDER
From a strictly law enforcement and administrative perspective, the turn of events last Sunday undoubtedly speaks to defiance to the ‘Rule of Law’ [August 8, 2021]. However, the developments, viewed from an administrative perspective, speaks to a ‘Serious Police Blunder.’ The latter might be discerned from this statement; ‘…It is apparent that his late response was a calculated and deliberate act by the Police Commissioner, since he knew that his decision can be appealed to the Minister responsible for the Police’ [Barbados Today: August 8, 2021]. This statement was attributed to one of two female organizers, ‘Donette Simon and Shenel Williams,’ compliant with the requirements of law, as contained in the ‘Public Order Act.’
DISSATISFACTION AND DEFIANCE
In view of provisions contained in the ‘Public Order Act’ [Chapter 357: Section 40], they contended that the ‘Refusal’in granting a permit [Section 12], together with the denial of an opportunity to ‘Appeal’ the decision of ‘Commissioner of Police Atlee Patrick Rodney QPM,’ may have fueled ‘Dissatisfaction and Defiance.’ A Commissioner of Police’ would have been reckless not to know the law and to show allegiance as contained in one of the ‘Founding Constitutional Principles.’ Lest it be misunderstood, the ‘Public Order Act’ provides for a ‘Commissioner of Police’ to ‘Grant or Refuse’ a permit to any law-abiding citizen to; (i) ‘…Hold public march; (ii) …Hold public meeting; or (iii) …Use a public address system.’
NOTIFICATION OF REFUSAL
The Act states; ‘…Any person who desires to organize any public march, shall at least 3 days before the day on which such public march is to take place, apply to the Commissioner of Police for a permit’ [POA: Chapter 357: Section 10]. That which has not been denied or refuted was that an application to hold a ‘Public March on August 8, 2021,’ was reportedly submitted in writing to the office of the ‘Commissioner of Police’ [July 24, 2021]. Administratively, it was inexcusable that the applicants received a ‘Notification of Refusal,’ less than forty-eight (48) hours [August 6, 2021].
Whether by inadvertence, calculation or collusion, or professional deficiency, a ‘Commissioner of Police’ runs the risk of being seen as ‘administratively inefficient.’ Early response, allows for the applicant to write an appeal to the Minister charged with responsibility for the ‘Maintenance of Law and Order,’ if the application to hold a ‘Public March,’ is refused. As a consequence, those responsible for enactment of the ‘Public Order Act,’ not only removed sole discretion from the ‘Commissioner of Police,’ but also subject ‘Negative Decisions’ to ‘Ministerial Scrutiny and Consideration.’
Such ‘Minister, charged with responsibility for the maintenance of law and order may act rationally, but in the interest of ‘Public order and Public Safety’ [POA: Chapter 357: Section 40]. This Section unambiguously states; ‘…Any person who is dissatisfied with the refusal of the Commissioner of Police to grant a permit under this Act, may withing ‘Seven Days’ appeal in writing to the Minister.’ It may very well have been the last-minute refusal to grant of a ‘Permit to March,’ that had incensed protesters, who incidentally, imprudently and ill-advisedly sought to engage two well-equipped ‘Police Riot Squads.’
Incidental to an application, the Act provides for the ‘Commissioner of Police’ to accept and respond. This shall be done within a reasonable time. Thinking prudently, ‘Parliament’ anticipated that a ‘Commissioner of Police’ might be environmentally controlled, as to be perceived by general public as acting ‘irrationally, unjustifiably and brutally.’Some applicants may believe that a ‘Commissioner’ may also act spitefully and vindictively. Parliament also anticipated that the ‘Refusal’ of a permit without justified reasons, compounded by an inordinate delay, though acting in conformity and guided by the ‘Rule of Law,’ may provoke wrath.
This bears no difference from feelings harbored by ‘Prime Minister Gaston Browne’ who warns of repelling any missile attack upon his person. Misguided social media commenters were said to be wanting to ‘Ralph’ him. [ANR: August 15, 2021]. Social media research revealed some interesting information.’ It states; ‘…Before his departure Prime Minister Gaston Browne received ‘Security Briefing’ from Commissioner of Police Atlee Rodney and Deputy Chief of Defence Staff of the Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force (ABDF), Lieutenant Colonel Trevor Pennyfeather’ [PM’s Office: August 5, 2021]. This was accompanied by a photograph. Such certainly worth a ‘Thousand words.’ While none may speculate, they may still draw reasonable inferences. Incidentally, the ‘Refusal Response’ was reportedly received a day after [August 6, 2021]. Then two days later there was the unleashing of ‘Tear Gas and Rubber Projectiles’ upon defiant protesters [August 8, 2021].
Instructively, the Act provides for the ‘Commissioner’ acting in an administrative capacity, gives favorable or unfavorable consideration to an application hold meeting or public march. A decision to grant or refuse is contingent upon; (a) ‘…Giving due regard to the preservation of public order; and (b) …Considering the interest of public safety’ [POA: Section 12]. Consequent upon that which reportedly transpired, and the ‘State’s subjection to the Law,’ it may have been justifiably considered that serious ‘Administrative Negligence’ was occasioned. Though citizens shall be obedient to the Law, such considered negligence may have provoked the ‘Streaks of Defiance’ in the otherwise, law-abiding.
From professional knowledge, the ‘Tactical Warnings’ to protesters were to be delivered by ‘Tactical Unit Commanders.’ Defiant protesters were to be verbally and loudly told, using a ‘Public Address System;’ ‘…Disperse and go about your lawful business or: (i) ‘…I shall use Batons and Shields’ (if attacked with missiles-bottles/stones).’ If such may not be effective; (ii) …I shall use Smoke-Tear Gas; or (iii) …If attacked with Firearms: …I shall fire upon you.’ It appeared that the ‘Batton Section,’ if any was deployed, was not used. A ‘Commissioner of Police’ shall seek to inform himself and ‘Ground Commanders,’ that ‘Failed Persuasion’ has never been the first level of force [ABS TV: August 9, 2021]. It was clear there had been serious command and control and tactical errors. Even so, the ‘Riot Squads’ had achieved their objectives (i) ‘…Clearing the City Streets’ of angry protesters; and (ii) …Restoring order.’
The ‘Riot Squads’ were said to have been more ‘Riotous’ than the ‘Missile-Throwing Mobsters.’ In the event of violence or other infractions of law that may result in criminal prosecutions, ‘Banners’ displayed are of no evidential value. Besides, ‘Dummies’ are not so deployed. Unexpectedly, the protesters and -on-lookers were on the receiving end of the ‘Tactical Fury’ of the ‘riot-ready personnel.’ This occurred when the ‘Riot Squads’ reportedly discharged several volleys of ‘Tear Gas and Rubber Projectiles’ at the gathered protesters, as well as upon personnel deployed to perform crowd-control duties.
PURSUED AND PEPPERED
Overwhelmed by choking fumes of the irritant-based tear-gas and exhaust emissions of the diesel-powered engines, every frantically attempted to escape the ‘Fury of the Riot Squads.’ Running angry protesters were said to have retaliated with missiles, described as bottle and stones. These incidents reportedly occurred after the assembled area at the ‘Sir Vere Cornwall Bird Bust’ at Lower Market Street’ was cleared [August 8, 2021]. Instructively, protesters who reportedly ran from the ‘Market Square,’ were said to have been under hot ‘Pursuit.’ When the streets became an inferno and missiles directed at the ‘Riot Squads,’ they were reportedly ‘Peppered with Rubber Projectiles.’ Such pursuit may have been comparable to the gallant efforts being made by ‘Health Minister Sir Molwyn Joseph KCN’ to control the community spread of the dangerous infectious and deadly ‘Coronavirus-19 Pandemic.’
FURY OF RIOT SQUADS
With burning and reddened eyes, tripping and falling on each other, everyone, protesters, by-standers and ‘Crowd Control Police officers, reportedly ran in all directions. Adding to the Sunday afternoon ‘Drama and Confusion’ were said to have been several uniformed officers initially deployed on crowd control duty. Caught between the protesters and ‘Riot Squads,’ were the out-numbered ‘Crowd Control Officers.’ Driven from the ‘City Square,’ in a running stone-throwing battle, they reportedly vented anger and frustration upon the ‘PDO Building’ on Lower Kentish Road, they forced to flee to the quiet communities of; (a) ‘…Kentish Road; (b) …Ottos; and (c) …Grays Farm.’ These are located on the periphery of the city of St. John.’
CROWD DISPERSAL WEAPONRY
That which appeared not to have been referenced were ‘Crowd Dispersal Weaponry’ that included, ‘Tear-Gas and Rubber Projectiles.’ These were reportedly used by the ‘Riot Squad’ when irate protesters retaliated violently with missiles of ‘Bottles and Stones.’ Incidentally, no one was identified as giving orders for such use of force. From professional tactical training, knowledge and practical experience, ‘Ground Commanders,’ shall progressively guide superiors or ‘Off-the scene Commanders’ of changing situations. Save as the immediacy of the situation, and as circumstances dictate, as a civil force, ‘Ground Commanders’ are required to act swiftly and firmly, yet sensibly, civilly and with tact and restraint. In the instant situation, by the time the tear gas fumes had dissipated into the atmosphere and the ‘Rubber Projectiles’ had stopped raining down on protesters and by-standers, several persons were either left to nurse bodily or head injuries.’
Those forced to flee were said to have been mostly women, including the elderly, the pregnant women and innocent children. Those in retaliatory mode, were said to have been mostly male youth. Said to have been ‘Peacefully Speaking’ and inter-mingling with protesters, were said to have been the ‘physically-statured Acting Superintendent Cordel O’Garro.’ Video-footage showed him exhibiting great athletic talent. Matching his sprinting skills was said to be ‘Leader of the Go Green Party, Owen George.’ They have shown great athleticism. In that instance, it was not size that mattered. Both reportedly out-maneuvered the less agile subordinates and protesters, comprising mostly women, girls and children. Though running and panting for oxygenated-air, they reportedly sprinted like hares on the run from the vicious clutches of prey ready for a meal.
There were schools of thought that either the ‘Ground Commander’ may have been left to his own devices or that he had debriefing with the ‘Commissioner of Police,’ who then wished to tread carefully with explanations on the turn of events. Reasonable inferences may have been drawn that a ‘Blame-Shifting Attempt’ may have been evident when the ‘Overall Off-Scene Commander,’ Commissioner of Police Rodney’ sought to distance himself from the ‘Ground Operations.’ Reasonable inferences may have been drawn that he too had concerns over the apparent ‘heavy-handed and imprudent use of ‘mechanically-propelled tear gas and rubber projectiles,’ against the then ‘Peaceful Protesters.’This may have been evident as ‘Crowd Control officers’ so deployed, also fled the scene.
FACTS AND TRUTHS
Succumbing to media pressure exerted by news reporter ‘Gemma Handy’s’ grilling over the ordering of the use of ‘Tear Gas and Rubber Projectiles,’ ‘Commissioner of Police Atlee Rodney QPM’ openly ducked the question. He was not the ‘Ground Commander’ and was not going to be ‘Reckless with Facts and Truths.’ Very carefully, he deflected the question to ‘Deputy Commissioner of Police Albert M.P. Wade QPM.’ Uncomfortably positioned, the ‘Ground Commander’ was forced to offer ‘Operational Explanations.’ Anxious and angry citizens heard that after repeated verbal warnings to disperse, the ‘Riot Squads’ used ‘Whatever means were available,’ and at their immediate disposal.
Even as ‘Minister’ with responsibility for the ‘Police and Public Safety’ and the maintenance of law and order,Attorney General, Steadroy ‘Cutie’ Benjamin. Ironically, he held the enviable position of ‘Acting Prime Minister.’ He reportedly promised that these incidents would be investigated. Even from a distance, in the heat of excitement, chaos and confusion, ‘an Overall Commander’ shall maintain control of his ‘Crowd Dispersal Tactical Units.’ This, of course comes with exposure to the requisite ‘Use of Force Training.’ In dealing with non-violent protesters, such training is of critical importance. This is particularly so when dealing with unarmed civilians, whether or not boisterously angry or rowdy. This necessarily calls for flexibility, civility and restraint. These often avert untoward events, regrettable actions and consequences. Moreover, these often resulted in strained police/public relations and ultimately avert embarrassment and liability, resulting from ‘Public Inquiries and Jury Trials.’ ***