Yesterday organised labour embarked on a much-touted demonstration against skyrocketing utility tariffs as well as taxes and their attendant consequences on the cost of living.
Enough has been written and commented about the factors which led to the decision to protest – a constitutionally acceptable exercise anyway.
Previous demonstrations had been underpinned by pre-protest disagreements between law enforcement agents and those seeking to embark on the protest marches.
Many of such notifications in the past culminated in the law enforcement agents resorting to ex parte actions at the courts to stop the demonstrations. A court action following one of such developments has, however, changed the landscape of demonstrations.
The headlines originating from such disagreements have often overshadowed the main events and created an unnecessary bad blood between the law enforcement agents on one hand and others on the other hand.
It appears there has been a paradigm shift in the management of such public activities on the part of the law enforcement agents. A previous demonstration, politically driven though, as noted in a preceding paragraph, was eclipsed by the loss of an eye by one of the demonstrators and very negative pictures of rampaging cops reminiscent of the heady days of apartheid South Africa.
In a social media-fuelled world, there was no stopping these pictures going viral: the law enforcement agency suffered a major image dent – something which infected the government’s too.
Yesterday’s was unlike that one. Not only were the police civil in their management with the activity, but the demonstrators too exhibited a high level of orderliness. We could not avoid asking whether the police had decided emphatically to open a new chapter in their relations with members of the public whose protection is their primary responsibility. Juxtaposing it with the ill-fated demonstration by the ‘Let My Vote Count Alliance,’ we can only conclude that the law enforcement command – that is the Greater Accra Police Command – under the direction of its Commander, COP Dr George Akuffo Dampare and their organised labour counterparts, comported themselves so well that both deserve kudos.
It has emerged that when managed properly and bereft of bellicosity on the part of the police especially, demonstrations can be both fun and serious business intended to send a message to the government.
The Greater Accra Police Regional Commander has already issued a statement lauding those who partook in the demonstration for doing so without any confrontation between his officers and the protesters. Even before the outcome of an evaluation of the demonstration, he had painted a picture of a peaceful protest.
When law enforcement agents exhibit total professionalism devoid of the interference of politicians, they are able to win the confidence of demonstrators as evidenced by yesterday’s peaceful protest march.