By JP Schwmon #SituationUpdates
Ras Oba and Dave Crosby were numbered amongst the persons who gathered outside the Vincentian House of Assembly on January 14. They were the only two protestors who were taken into police custody on Friday; joining ranks with several other Vincentians who have had to appear in local Courts – in recent times – for their alleged roles in previous Kingstown-based protests.
The duo has become something of a fixture in these, primarily, anti-covid-19 vaccine mandate demonstrations. Ras Oba has notoriously proclaimed to be an ardent ganja consumer and based his opposition to the highly resisted, government-led COVID-19 management initiative on the benefits – he claims to have accrued – of his decades-long cannabis use.
“I was just normal, normal holding up a placard,” he told Asbert News Network on Monday following his indictment on the charge that he failed to comply with directions given by a police officer at Friday’s protest.
The lifelong Fari confirmed that he was neither smoking nor behaving aggressively at the time of his arrest.
“I’m not worried, I’m here for the long-haul – I’m against injustice. My placard said, ‘Ralph Gonsalves and Camillo Gonsalves are not above the law; poor Yugge,” Ras Oba continued.
We were reliably informed that his trial was set for March 29, after he appeared before a local magistrate and pled “not guilty.”
Crosby, a former Senior Customs Officer, was also charged that he “did knowingly fail to comply with the direction of Station Sergeant Julian Caine when directed to disperse from an unlawfully held public meeting which was held within two hundred yards of the high court building when the house of assembly was sitting.”
This charge was laid because Crosby was allegedly found to be acting “contrary to Section 8 (3) (a) of the Public order act chapter 396 of the Revised Edition of the Laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
According to Crosby’s lawyer, Michael Wyllie, “he was fired for not being vaccinated and got no compensation for time served. He (Crosby) worked as a Customs Officer for the past 34 years and 8 months.”
Lawyer Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, who acted as one of the legal intermediaries when the duo was first arrested, told ANN:
“The police has unlawfully arrested the two protestors and I have been unable to reach the Commissioner of Police or the head of CID [Criminal Investigations Dept] despite several calls and/or messages left!”
At the time of that interview – almost 24 hours since the arrest – both persons were yet to be charged. Although according to Bacchus-Baptiste, “this is oppressive, wicked and designed to intimidate all lawful protestors….”
Nailah John-Prince, a functionary of the Rise Hairouna NGO, also spoke exclusively with ANN. She said: “the police are unlawfully arresting protestors. There’s no such thing as having to write to the Commissioner of Police to engage in a protest – to inform, not to ask permission but to inform.
“Well the COP was informed because the ad was on the radio, flyers were circulating also what I’m going to do going forward I’m going to post a flyer to their [Facebook] page. If they were not informed why did they send out all those police officers and Black Squad in gear and all of that?
“We would not be intimidated by these unlawful arrests of protestors and we will continue to protest. What are they going to do, lock up everyone? No. You have a right to use a bullhorn, you have the right to use a whistle, you have the right to use a pot and spoon, the right to use a placard – there are no laws that govern this.”
Rise Hairouna PRO Nikala Williams was also confronted by police officers on multiple occasions but was ultimately not arrested.
Rise Hairouna convened a virtual media brief on Tuesday to provide further updates.