Community, Liberia

Liberia: Protesters denounce “excessive force” by the Public Force during 8M detention

Esta publicación también está disponible en: Español
Translator: Arianna Hernández

On social networks, the women’s groups that marched in Liberia for International Women’s Day denounced aggression and “police violence” by Public Force officers when arresting one of the demonstrators with the last name Saborio for “property damage.” Saborio allegedly wrote on the sign that says “Liberia” on the boulevard of Mario Cañas park.

In the videos that are circulating, at least four officers wrestled with Saborío and the women around her who demanded that she be released. One of them grabbed her by the neck to put her in the police vehicle.

According to one of the march participants, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals, she and a group of women suspect that the Public Force identified Saborio from a video posted by Vice Mayor Arianna Badilla at 6:41 p.m. in which Saborio is seen graffitiing the letters.

The municipality’s Facebook page also posted a message saying “thanks to some witnesses, videos and photographs, the one responsible was arrested.”

“We didn’t see any patrol unit when we passed by that place [the boulevard],” said the young woman. Through photographs and videos, The Voice verified that this young woman participated in the march. It was also possible to verify that Saborio was not immediately arrested after writing on the sign.

After this, a patrol unit from the Public Force positioned itself behind the group of protesters and followed them for 20 minutes to Pulmon Park, where the protest route ended, according to the protester and another known as “Oro,” who also didn’t want to provide her first and last name.

“At the precise moment that we spread out a bit [at approximately 7 p.m.], two big men got out of the patrol vehicle. I personally thought that they were going to tell us something like they’ve done before, but no. All at once, they rushed towards the girl. When we saw that, all of us tried to protect her because we didn’t understand what was happening. Together, we managed to get them to release her,” she said.

We started to run but several policemen came behind us. We were running in the direction of the Aplicacion school when another patrol vehicle intercepted us,” she added. “She was screaming that she couldn’t breathe, but I can assure you that at no time was she violent and she wouldn’t even have been able to. She was one girl against several police officers.”

The Voice asked the Ministry of Security if they would make a statement regarding the acts of aggression denounced by these women on social networks. We also tried to find out the version of Liberia’s Public Force, but at the time of publication of this article, we did not receive a response.

The press manager, Jaime Sibaja, said that the demonstrators can file a complaint if they think there was mistreatment.

“In a country of rights, they can express themselves. If something doesn’t seem right to you or you agree, you can file a complaint,” Sibaja replied in a WhatsApp message.

Detained for More Than 24 Hours

Several of the protesters went to the police station and then to Court in Liberia to wait for Saborio. She was released at 11:20 a. m. on Thursday morning. 

Liberia’s Flagrancia Prosecutor’s Office investigated Saborio for committing the alleged crimes of resistance and aggravated damage. The Municipality of Liberia participated as the offended party, the press department specified.

On social networks, Vice Mayor Badilla and the Municipality of Liberia posted that they would file a complaint today for the incidents. The Voice tried to contact Badilla and Mayor Luis Gerardo Castañeda, but it wasn’t possible to locate them by the deadline for this article.

According to the newspaper La Nación, Badilla filed a complaint with the Public Ministry on Tuesday night and would ask the Judicial Investigation Agency (OIJ for the Spanish acronym) this Wednesday to investigate the case of another woman, captured in footage of the local page ALÓ Noticias, when she graffitied the walls of the Catholic temple.

“The entire march was peaceful. When they alerted me of the vandalism, I went to the park and saw the damage. I even ran into three of the girls whom I had asked if they could demonstrate but without causing damage and I also complained to them about the painting on the monument. Right there, they started insulting me and shouting threats at me. They told me everything and then they went to write on the entire wall of the Immaculate Church and also the sidewalks,” the official told the newspaper La Nación.

Like Badilla, several people complained on social networks that protesters painted buildings in the middle of the protests.

Others complain that the authorities don’t have the same diligence against men who defecate and urinate in public places, against other groups that also graffiti public buildings or against other acts of gender violence.

The independent legislator Paola Vega asked Security Minister Michael Soto for an explanation of the events.