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Police Riot in Port of Spain

posted 18 Dec 2009, 19:57 by National Workers Union
On Friday 18th December 2009, riot police attacked members of the trade union movement and the People's Democracy who were picketing the Trinidad and Tobago parliament during the debate on the much-reviled property tax bill. Several of the dozens of protesters were beaten by police who were heavily armed with machine guns, batons, tear gas and tasers.

President of the Federation of Trade Unions and NGOs David Abdulah was arrested and charged for obstruction in violation of the Highways Act. He was released on his own bail and is due to appear in court on Monday 21st.

This virtual police riot in the heart of Port of Spain is but the latest example of a trend on the part of the State to suppress the freedom of assembly and the right to free expression on the part of the citizens of the Republic.

One
commentator stated: "…in a country that, on the surface, appears to enjoy such a progressive legal framework, we have had a sustained assault over the years on the very freedom of assembly. In the immediate past there have been the attempt to shut down the Drumit at St. James and the march in POS organised by the trade unions during the Summit of the Americas

Since then the police have, on more than one occasion, attempted to stop the One Voice group from assembling; the president of the industrial court has suggested to trade unions that they do not picket the court; trade union pickets inevitably attract police officers who attempt to disperse them. The police attempted to stop the press conference held by the group of trade unions and NGO's outside the Red House… and actually refused permission for the march commemorating the
Jahaji Massacre. It is clear that freedom of Assembly is under attack.”

To this litany of violations, we must add the banning of the La Brea Concerned Citizens from staging their anti-smelter skit at the so-called People’s Space during the recently held Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Port of Spain.

The police action has been met with widespread indignation among citizens of the country. It has sharpened the focus on the
property tax, raised the political temperature and brought the question of the right to assemble and the right to free expression squarely before the national community. We have certainly not heard the end of this.
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