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Guard and Emergency Branch officers detain two participants in the Push Back walk who gathered at the Queen’s Park Savannah after the activity on Sunday.

RHONDOR DOWLAT-ROSTANT

Political and social activist Umar Abdullah has been charged in connection with Sunday’s ‘Push Back Two’ demonstration at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port-of-Spain, where he was among 12 people detained by police. The 11 others have, however, been released.

Police sources last evening confirmed that Abdullah was charged and added that although the 11 others were released, “charges may also be forthcoming” pending further investigations.

According to a post on the First Wave Movement’s Facebook page, however, Abdullah was being “falsely charged by police for standing up for the rights of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday 16th January 2022.”

The post said: “The police, who has a history of false accusations, are alleging that Bro. Umar Abdullah incited violence when in fact it was the police that was meting out violence towards the people of Trinidad & Tobago. Bro. Umar will however fight this matter and has no regrets for taking a stand for the people of Trinidad & Tobago.”

Abdullah did not answer calls to his phone last night.

The walk attracted hundreds — including children. However, the activities came to an abrupt end after police used tear gas to disperse a crowd they claimed became unruly and refused to follow instructions to disburse after the event had actually ended. The police alleged that participants began acting erratic and hurled missiles at officers, who had to use tear gas to disperse the unruly crowd.

Following the incident, 12 people were arrested and many others, including children, were left nursing injuries.

However, Push Back committee chairman and businessman Robert Amar disputed the police report that the participants were unruly.

The walk commenced at 11.15 am and ended at 12.30 pm and Amar said it was organised to get people back on a health conscience movement.

In the first Push Back on November 30 last year, Amar said 35 people were detained and charged for breaching the public health ordinance, specifically gathering in groups more than ten. The 35 were detained for 16 hours.

Meanwhile, in a release issued yesterday, the Transport and Industrial Workers’ Union (TIWU) condemned what they described as the despicable behaviour of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) and, by extension, the Government.

“What was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration with families, the nation’s government turned it into a riot and seemingly thought it best to bring out a riot squad. The TTPS was outfitted with riot gear, armed with large guns and tear gas. Is that the message we want to send out to the world? That a peaceful demonstration with families in a savannah can cause the government to use the resources of the ITPS to instil fear to bring the nation into submission?” the union stated.

“Looking at this behaviour through the eyes of the world, could be defined as the most embarrassing performance of an educated bunch of people. This was not an expectation of those with three degrees and a long list of qualification. What happened to the rights of citizens in this country? Are we on the inception of dictatorship? Comrades and citizens, this action meted out to peaceful citizens by the government is unacceptable. Especially since their only cry was only to seek answers and be given an opportunity to be heard in the best interest of all,” it added.

The union has assured that it stands in solidarity with its members who participated at the peaceful demonstration “in defence of their rights for bread and justice and the right to privacy and refusal on health issue that is not in the best interest of one as an individual.”

The union also condemned the alleged arrest and abuse of one of its members, who it said stood with his comrades and peacefully demonstrated his non-compliance to Government’s initial utterances to furlough unvaccinated workers on January 17, 2022.

“The execution of these statements can cause grave hardships on families notwithstanding the effects on their mental, emotional and physical health,” the union said.

It called on the Government, together with the TTPS, to apologise “to these innocent citizens for their callousness and blatant disregard to the democratic right of the working class in this nation.”