Occupy Parliament: Did the Police violate the Right to Protest?

Posted by on 20th May 2013

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The protest was in response to continual demands by members of the 11th Parliament to their salaries returned to that of parliamentarians in the 10 parliament. A demand that is neither sustainable nor supported by a majority of Kenyans (an Ipsos Synovate survey shows that 88% of Kenyans support the protest.

The protests of old were are fraught with violence tear gas thrown, running battles between police and protestors. The Occupy Parliament protest in comparison seemed well organised and conspicuously unaggressive: the pigs spray painted with the MPs names and the moniker MPigs signifying the MPs greed, It was however successful in delivering the point, it’s unreasonable for MPs to demand a higher pay when they already a salary several times greater than the average Kenyan.

However despite the fact that Occupy Parliament was a planned peaceful protest with the requisite permits and permissions granted, some of the protestors were subjected to police violence. The police fired tear gas, sprayed the protestors with water cannons and television footage showed a police officer beating up a protester. So while the protest was a legal one, it seems the police did not get the memo.

The right to protest is an indispensible part of a civil and democratic society, and is a legal and valid way to express dissent. The right is articulated in Article 37 of the constitution on assembly, demonstration, picketing and petition. The Article states, “Every person has the right, peaceably and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket, and to present petitions to public authorities.”

Police Spokesman Charles Owino, while condemning the protestors has assured the public that that the police officers involved attacking the protestors would be held to account stating “They will have to say who gave them the orders or take individual responsibility for their actions.”

We’ll be watching.

Meanwhile MP Aden Duale has threaten to sue the protestors for associating the MPs with pigs (read story here).