A long convoy of taxis which joined a massive protest march dubbed, ‘Ahokyere Na Double Double’ became an issue between the police and the organizers of the protest march.
The misunderstanding somehow threatened the largely peaceful protest, even as the demonstrators turned away Castle representative, Nii Lantey Vanderpuye.
Nii Lantey, who claimed he had been mandated by President Atta Mills to collect the petition of the demonstrators, was hooted at when he turned up. The protestors said he was not qualified to take their petition, leading to hooting and catcalls.
The demonstration was organized under the auspices of the Young Patriots, a group youth aligned to the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
The red T-shirts and bands sported by the mostly youthful persons in the demonstration gave seriousness to the protest march. In a country where red is symbolic of funerals and other serious engagements, the colour could not have been a better choice by the demonstrators.
It could be stated that the turnout of women was very high.
Although the organizers refused to yield to the demand of the police that the taxis should not be part of the demonstration, the cabbies took their positions outside the Obra Spot, the assembling area, joining the sea of heads as it made its way onto the streets for the march afterwards.
For a while, the convoy of taxis continued to be part of the demonstration until one of the police officers began taking down their vehicle registration numbers, an action which prompted the organizers of the protest to call the attention of the media.
The Nima Police Divisional Commander, Timothy Yoosa Bonga, explained that the security arrangement regarding the demonstration was about a 1,000 persons and not taxis.
Had taxis been considered in the arrangement, the security would have been different, he said. According to him, containing so many taxis in a demonstration could create a number of challenges for which the police were not prepared.
This was however countered by one person who claimed to have been part of the team which discussed the security arrangements with the police.
He said the police were not speaking the truth because, according to him, they alerted them that taxi cabs would join the protest march and their inclusion was part of the discussions and so for them to turn around at the 11th hour to say otherwise was most insincere.
There were about a 100 policemen drafted from the Nima Division, Striking Force, Rapid Deployment Force, the Mounted Squadron from Osu and the Ministries Police.
Slowly making their way through the streets from Nkrumah Circle, the numbers grew into thousands as they moved towards the Farisco area and eventually the former Hearts of Oak training grounds, close to the Mensah Guinea beach.
A common feature of the placards clutched by most of the demonstrators was the ‘double double’ posters, namely; ‘Gas Shortage Na Double Double’, ‘Road Tolls Na Double Double’, ‘School Feeding Is Dying’, ‘Get Atta Sacked (Gas)’ and a host of others, some of which opened up old wounds such as ‘Who Are The Killers Of The Yaa Naa? and ‘Who Are The Killers Of The 30 Women?’
Amidst an assortment of brass band music, the demonstrators meandered through the streets, occasionally entering into arguments with the police when some of them sought to go ahead of the cops who were strategically placed at the head of the procession.
Some of the protesters carried empty LPG cylinders to symbolize the incessant shortage of the product in the country in recent times.
The demonstration was not without the usual side attractions such as the protesters refusing to yield to the instructions of the police to follow the approved routes and the organizers arguing with the security agents.
There was a standoff between the organizers and the police when the former wanted to pass through the Ministries but met a stiff resistance by a section of Mounted Police at the traffic intersection near the Ministry Police Station, where they appeared to have taken their positions long before the arrival of the demonstrators.
When eventually the standoff was eased, the procession continued until it encountered another side attraction when, in front of the Greater Accra Regional office of the Ministry of Agriculture, a quarrel ensued between a section of the demonstrators and some construction workers of International Developers Ghana Limited.
An operator of earth-moving excavator got into an altercation with a female demonstrator for attempting to urinate on the site.
He did the unthinkable by threatening to hit the woman with the bucket of the excavator attached to the equipment, and, in the event, incurred the wrath of some of the demonstrators who poured onto the site.
It took the intervention of some policemen to restore order.
Eventually, the large body of men and women converged on the Hearts Park in anticipation of the arrival of a representative of the president so the petition could be handed over to him.
According to one of the organizers, Nii Kwartei Titus-Glover, they had insisted that the petition would only be handed over to President Atta Mills himself or, in his absence, Vice President John Dramani Mahama or the Chief of Staff.
Their demand was rebuffed by the government and instead a presidential aide, Nii Lantey Vanderpuye, turned up much later when most demonstrators had already dispersed.
According to him, he was there to represent President Mills and stated further that he had been there earlier at about 11am when the protestors had not shown up.
In another drama, the protest organizers refused to hand him the petition in pursuance of their early stand.
Nii Lante Vanderpuye told them they had shown disrespect to the president by refusing to hand him the petition since the First Gentleman had the right to appoint someone to collect such a document on his behalf.
According to the petition sighted, which is definitely yet to hit the desk of the president, “(the) majority of Ghanaians are not able to afford three square meals a day”.
They asked the president what had become of his ‘Action Year’ promise which, according to them, had gone silent. “We wish to enquire if the momentum with which the rhetoric you preached has been deflated by the harsh economic circumstances you and your government have imposed on the Ghanaian people.”
Turning to the energy sector, which featured a lot on the placards, they bemoaned the frequent shutdown of the Tema Oil Refinery, an action which had led to the exodus of experts to other countries.
Touching on the economic situation in the country, the Young Patriots encouraged the president to address the concerns raised in the petition, which was jointly signed by Richard Kwesi Nyamah, Daniel Nii Kwartei Titus-Glover, John Kumah, Hopeson Adorye, Asamoah Gyamfi and Michael Ampong.
Source: Portia Anaman & Jamila Akweley Okerchiri
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