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Human rights activists picket President’s residence for justice

The candle light vigil outside State House against police brutality and a demand for justice

Even as the Guyana Police Force (GPF) late Tuesday assured that steps were being taken to deal with the police officer who shot a 15-year old boy in his mouth, the lad and his mother joined in picketing State House- the official residence of President Donald Ramotar.

The police force said “the Police Office of Professional Responsibility has completed their investigations into the matter involving 15-year-old Alex Griffith who was shot in his mouth by a policeman earlier this month during an interrogation at East La Penitence about a robbery. The file has been forwarded to the Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority today Tuesday May 13, 2014.”

But the boy’s mother, Marcelle Griffith, told Demerara Waves Online News that she was dissatisfied with the pace of the investigations and feared that Cadet Officer, Franz Paul, would not be charged and jailed.

“I think the police want to ‘duck’ the matter because they are not even satisfied with the report from the hospital…All I know they take a report from me, they got the medical, my child pick out the right man, the gun match to the man and still up to now the story can’t start. It still under the desk, waiting to fly through the flooring,” she said from the picket-vigil organised by the Colwyn Harding Support Group.  Harding has accused police of last November beating and sodomising him with condom-covered baton at the Timehri Police Station. No one has been charged.

Griffith reiterated that she does not want any compensation including a GUY$1 million offer that she said has been made privately by someone connected to Paul.

Yaphet Jackman, an ordinary citizen, said he joined the vigil to advocate for safety in light of atrocities that have been perpetrated for some time now. “If we wait too long, it could be a little too late because you never know who will come and stand up for us if they come for us after,” he said, adding that it was time to move the agitation from Facebook and Twitter.

He expected the number of persons to eventually grow beyond the 15 persons at the vigil in the coming months. Jackman wants a level playing field for justice to be delivered to everyone. “If we have laws that are in place, it just can’t be for one set and not for the others. It has to be a plain and level playing field. Had it been the reverse, I believe this issue would have been a closed case,” he said.

He echoed views similar to those of the 15 year old boy, saying that policemen involved in such incidents should be charged because it is an internal case and the investigators would have already collected all the evidence and perpetrators. “Why is it that you keep delaying the process? That tells the public something else. That automatically tells the layman that doesn’t know but has an idea as to what can happen that you are probably trying to hide something so you are sending off the wrong signals,”  he said.

University of Guyana academic, Melissa Ifill, said the vigil in solidarity with victims of police brutality and highlight that the security forces and the State have not been addressing the culture of brutality, torture and extra-judicial killing that exist in the Guyana Police Force.

Ifill remained optimistic that despite the small number of participants, the issue would attract local and international attention. “No government likes to be embarrassed and so, in part, that is one avenue that could lead to change,” she said.

The placards read “Stop police violence now,” “Stop the antics, Take action now,” “Bring back justice and accountability,”  “Arrest Franz Paul, Arrest Devin Singh, Stop shooting our boys” and “Charge the Cadet now.”

A police mobile patrol, including senior officers, as well as Presidential Guards kept a watchful eye over the vigil.