The Inquirer is a leading independent daily newspaper published in Liberia, based in Monrovia. It is privately owned with a "good reputation".

Do We Really Understand What Is A “Protest Action?”

The constitution of a nation is considered the OGANIC LAW of that nation, which reminds the supreme legal body of that nation. As such, no law should be made that would contravene any provision of the constitution. Laws, as we know, are made to guide our conduct and behavior of the people. Among other things, the constitution defines and outlines the rights of the people of the nation.

Under ours, two of such rights which have been invoked in recent times, are the rights to “ASSEMBLE,” and also “FREEDOM OF SPEECH”. However, while recognizing these rights, the constitution also defines limits to these two kinds of rights.

For example, in the case of freedom of speech, it clearly states that people who enjoy these rights, would be held for any “abuse thereof,” while for peaceful assembly, it unambiguously states that this must be done ORDERLY and PEACEABLE manner so, this means that these freedoms are not absolute but go with responsibility, as it is said that where one rights end, another person’s rights begin.

On the issue of assembly, Article 17 of the Liberian Constitution states;” All persons, at all times, in an orderly and peaceable manner, shall have the right to assemble and consult upon the common good, to instruct their representatives, to petition the Government or other functionaries for the redress of grievances and to associate fully with others or refuse to associate in political parties, trade unions and other organizations”.

Equally so regarding freedom of speech or expression, Article 15 (a) of the Constitution says, “Every person shall have the right to freedom of expression, being fully responsible for the abuse thereof. This right shall not be curtailed, restricted or enjoined by government save during an emergency declared in accordance with this Constitution.”

Today, my focus would be on the issue of protest which is presently the cardinal issue of public discussion, as the Council of Patriots (COP) plans to stage its second protest action. It was initially set for last December 30, but was extended to another date because of interventions.
January 6, next week was set as the new date, but there are still conflicting reports about the actual new date, as we went to press. The first protest took place June 7 last year which was quite peaceful.

Interestingly, since news about the postponement of the protest, I am hearing about people expressing fear that this might lead to violence, despite assurance by the organizers. Indeed, I share the concern of those who have fear about violence because of what we call “FIELD OF EXPERIENCE” in communication.

The field of experience is a belief in which people predictably look at to-be events or situation based on experience in the past. It could be good or bad. There is a possibility of infiltration by miscreants and deviants to undermine the intent of the protest.

Some protests may have good intentions, but because of infiltration by some elements, they besmear the name of the protesters. Sometimes they are stage-managed, meaning that some elements in the status quo could bring the organizers to public disrepute and ridicule.

As it is said, a protest “is a solemn declaration of opinion, usually of dissent; a usually organized public demonstration of disapproval; a complaint of objection or display of unwillingness usually to an idea or a course of action; an objection made to an official or governing body.” A protest is also a means to draw leader’s attention to come issues.

It is important too to note that the organizers of a protest also have a responsibility to ensure that all is done for a peaceful protest. This is why it is necessary to also seek the protection of the state security to prevent miscreants and deviants’ infiltration.

Since COP finally said yesterday that the follow-up protest would be next Monday, let everything be done to ensure it is peaceful and orderly. More importantly, let COP prove its critics wrong. Likewise, the government should give it a listening ear, as to whom much is given, much is expected.

Why people have the right to protest on issues of national concern, sometimes DIALOGUE mitigate the constant Protests, especially in a country like ours that have gone through many years of conflicts.

I Rest My Case by saying HAPPY NEW YEAR.

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