The George Padmore Institute Condemns Police Attack on Peaceful Protesters

GPI statement on police response to peaceful protest outside Trinidad & Tobago Parliament in December 2009.

The George Padmore Institute  (GPI) condemns in the strongest possible terms the actions taken by the police against peaceful protestors on Friday 18th December, 2009, outside the Trinidad & Tobago Parliament during the Property Tax Debate. The GPI further condemns the arrest of David Abdulah, General Secretary of the Oilfields Workers Trade Union (OWTU) and the attempts by the police to intimidate law abiding citizens staging a legal and peaceful protest.  

We further deplore the PNM government’s failure to condemn the brutal and unlawful actions of the police and to uphold the democratic right of citizens to protest peacefully. Indeed, we consider irresponsible, intimidating and provocative statements made by the Acting Commissioner of Police, Mr James Philbert, on 22 December 2009 to the effect that the police showed restraint and was generous, that more protestors should have been arrested, and that even more charges might be brought.  This is the same Acting Commissioner who had earlier stated that he felt the police action may have been excessive.

We stand in solidarity with David Abdulah and the OWTU, an organisation whose interests the founder of the GPI, the late John La Rose, represented here in Europe since the 1960s.  The OWTU has collaborated with our own struggles for racial equality and social justice over many decades.  They like us stand on the shoulders of monumental historical figures such as Trinidad born George Padmore, one of the major figures of the 20th century, in the struggle for social liberation and against political repression.  We identify with his vision for Trinidad and Tobago and the world, and with the struggles of working people everywhere for bread, justice and freedom and for their right as citizens to participate actively in the civic and political life of their country and to hold governments accountable to the masses of the people.

The right of assembly, the right to open, free and democratic debate as a way of giving expression to active citizenship, the right to peaceful protest were all won through the sacrifice, threat to life and limb, loss of freedom and endurance of untold hardship by generations of citizens in Trinidad and Tobago.  We urge the Trinidad and Tobago government to desist from eroding these rights and from political repression against those who, rightly and justly, stand up in protest against unjust government policies and in defence of those hard won rights.

We urge that all charges against David Abdullah and others arrested be dropped as having no foundation. We believe that these arrests are acts of provocation and intimidation by the Trinidad and Tobago Police and a shameful symbol of state oppression in direct response to the legitimate protests of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.  Cultures of oppression spawn cultures of resistance.  Let the government of Trinidad and Tobago not forget the scars still borne by nation states in recent history as a result of governments unleashing state terror on their own people.

The George Padmore Institute

London

13 January 2010