GambiaHasDecided Statement on the Denial of permit to #OccupyWestfield

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On Dec 1st 2016, Gambians voted against tyranny, dictatorship and wanton disregard for our fundamental rights as citizens. As a people, we voted for a #NewGambia that will protect its citizens and uphold our inalienable fundamental human rights.

On 31st October 2017, a group of young Gambians under the banner #OccupyWestfield applied for a permit to hold a peaceful assembly at Westfield. The Inspector General of Police after screening the organisers of #OccupyWestfield rejected the application.

#GambiaHasDecided engaged the Inspector General of Police on Monday, 6th of November, after we learnt that #OccupyWestfield’s application for a permit to assemble at Westfield was denied. Our objective was to convince the Inspector General of Police to reconsider his decision and convince his office that a peaceful assembly can take place without any breach of the peace. We reminded the Inspector General of Police that Freedom to Assemble peacefully is a fundamental human right guaranteed by section 25 of our constitution, which takes precedence over the Public Order Act. We further acknowledged their duty to safeguard the peace of the nation, which in our view is not in conflict with the right to assemble. The Police assured us that they would revisit their decision after a subsequent meeting scheduled on the following Wednesday with the #OccupyWestfield organisers.

#OccupyWestfield was subsequently granted a permit on Friday, 10th of November to hold a peaceful assembly between the DHL and NAWEC feeder road after the organisers were screened by the Police. On Saturday afternoon, we were subsequently informed by the organisers of #OccupyWestfield that their permit was revoked on national security grounds. The Inspector General of Police also issued a strongly worded release prohibiting any assembly at Westfield.

On Sunday, 12th of November #OccupyWestfield in exercise of their constitutional rights, peacefully assembled at Kairaba Avenue, off Westfield to issue a public statement without the use of a Public Announcement System. #OccupyWestfield deliberately kept the crowd small and only informed a few stakeholders including the press to attend the press briefing. This was done to avoid any confrontation between the security forces and a potential big crowd in the absence of police protection. The gathering of #OccupyWestfield was peaceful and controlled without any incident of a breach of peace.

It is unfortunate that the Police Intervention Unit was dispatched fully armed to disperse the peaceful assembly of #OccupyWestfield without any incidence of a breach of the peace. The presence of armed PIU was very intimidating and aggressive to the peaceful citizens who conducted themselves responsibly at all times.

#GambiaHasDecided in solidarity joined and stood by #OccupyWestfield in support of their right to assemble peacefully.

#GambiaHasDecided is of the view that the revocation of the permit for a peaceful assembly is a violation of the fundamental rights of #OccupyWestfield guaranteed by section 25 of our constitution.

#GambiaHasDecided stands in solidarity with #OccupyWestfield in support of their right to Assemble peacefully without fear of intimidation and arrest.

#GambiaHasDecided condemns the deployment of armed Police Intervention Unit (PIU) to disperse an assembly of citizens peacefully exercising their constitutional right to do so.

#GambiaHasDecided appeals to the Government of the Gambia to promptly repeal the repressive Public Order Act which has no place in #NewGambia

#GambiaHasDecided for respect of our inalienable fundamental human rights

#GambiaHasDecided for peace and stability of our dear nation

For the Gambia Our homeland, we remain ever true.

#GambiaHasDecided

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