Police deny stripping paddy protest leader, 19 arrested

The police today denied that they had stripped the leader of a paddy protest on the Essequibo Coast yesterday. It also disclosed that 19 of the protesters had been arrested following the blocking of the coast road. A number of vehicles have also been seized.

The police press release follows:

Cognizant of media reports concerning protest activities by a number of persons on the Essequibo Coast yesterday Friday July 04, 2014, the Guyana Police Force is denying the allegation that police ranks stripped the protest leader Mr. Naith Ram, Chairman of the Essequibo Paddy Farmers’ Association, during their engagement with the protestors.

The Guyana Police Force states that on June 30, 2014, the Essequibo Paddy Farmers’ Association applied to the police for approval to hold a protest march on July 04, 2014, commencing at 0930h. from the Bush Lot New Market to the Anna Regina High Bridge where a meeting was to be held. Approval was subsequently given by the police.

The protest march and meeting commenced at 1000h. and proceeded peacefully with about 200 persons, that included farmers, participating. At the conclusion of the protest march and meeting, at about 1230h; most of the persons left, but some remained and began imbibing.

At about 1715h. yesterday those who were imbibing and some others that included Mr. Naith Ram, boarded their motor vehicles, including tractors and trailers, and proceeded to drive along the middle of the main roadway in the vicinity of the villages of Reliance and Land of Plenty, Essequibo Coast, at a very slow rate.

This action resulted in a back up of traffic as other motor vehicles could not pass, and they continued their actions despite efforts by police ranks to get them to drive on the left hand side of the road.

On reaching a short distance before the Land of Plenty Bridge, at about 1800h; the men continued breaching the laws by proceeding to block the entire roadway with the use of their motor vehicles that included tractors and trailers and to set fire to tyres and other debris that were thrown on the roadway. A utility pole was also used to block the roadway.

By this time the crowd had increased to over 400 persons and efforts by the police to get them to remove the vehicles from across the roadway proved futile. Missiles comprising bricks, bottles and other articles were thrown at police ranks in their attempt to remove the burning obstacles on the roadway, causing them to cease their efforts.

Personnel from the Guyana Fire Service at Anna Regina could not reach the scene owing the blockages on the road.

The police continued to appeal to the residents, but to no avail. The police then arrested Naith Ram, who was leading the protest, at which stage a number of other persons surged forward and accosted the ranks and took him away from the police. During this incident his clothing was torn and several police ranks were thrown into a nearby trench.

Naith Ram then stood among the protestors and stripped himself, and several persons took his photograph. He then left the area and later returned dressed in a change of clothing.

The Guyana Police Force emphatically reiterates that Naith Ram was not stripped by police ranks. He took off his own clothing after he had been taken away from the custody of the police by other protestors.

At about 2245h. the police once more appealed to the protestors, informing them that they were in breach of the laws, but they steadfastly refused to remove saying that they will only do so if His Excellency The President comes to address their concerns.

The police then used tear smoke to clear the unruly crowd and nineteen (19) men, including Naith Ram, were arrested. They are presently still in police custody.

Two tractors, four trailers, two motor cars and two motor cycles that were among the vehicles used to block the roadway have been seized by the police.

At about 0010h. today Saturday July 05, 2014, the blockage on the roadway was cleared and traffic commenced flowing freely.

A member of the Guyana Defence Force who was dressed in uniform, and in a motor vehicle that was caught up in the congestion caused by the blockage of the road, was assaulted by a number of protestors. He was later treated at the Suddie Hospital.

The police are continuing to monitor the situation.

The Guyana Police Force recognises the rights of citizens to peaceful protest, but when such protests degenerate into a set of unlawful activities that infringe on the rights of other citizens the police will, of necessity, have to take the appropriate action in order to maintain law and order.

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