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ComPol Williams says it was not the time for the UDP to protest

The Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams, has responded to the UDP’s claim that the police’s denial of its protest permit was politically motivated. Last Tuesday, the UDP staged a protest in Belize City against the Briceno Administration and the high cost of living. This was despite the party being denied twice the permission to do so by the police. The Opposition has claimed that the police department willfully suppressed their right to protest and called the move politically motivated. However, Williams says the denial was based on the location of the protest and the lack of officers that were needed to provide security.

Chester Williams, Commissioner, Belize Police Department: “My friend Mr. Peyrefitte is a very colourful fellow. I must say and he always has his own views about things and sometimes I wonder where he gets those things but that’s him. It was my instruction to the officer commanding eastern division not to grant the permit to protest. The law empowers the Commissioner of Police and nobody else and as the Commissioner of Police I saw it fit that it would not have been prudent to hold a protest in the area of a gas station. We have seen where recently, people are acting out, acting violently and if it is that you have a protest in the area of a gas station and the organisers of that protest cannot control the crowd, as you know that these protests do at times harbour those persons who would not listen to what the organizers would say and may do what they want and use the opportunity of the protest to do so. And so it was with that spirit that I had denied the permission to protest. Can you imagine those protesters would leave and go to a gas station and create havoc? It would be a disaster in Belize City. So that was the reason why. Notwithstanding that they went through the protest and I know that Uncle P was hoping to be arrested so that he could use his arrest as a form of a political statement and to gain public sympathy and so I gave instructions to my officers that if it is they want to protest, even though they have no permit, we will leave them to protest and we’re just going to ensure that we do the necessary policing to ensure that law and order is maintained and we put security presence at the gas station to prevent persons from going to the gas station. History has taught us that under the, with the UDP in Opposition, we have had the most violent protests in this country and we certainly don’t want that to repeat itself and again I emphasize the point that I did not see having a protest at a gas station as being prudent at this time.”