Tear gas fired to disperse defiant protesters – as it happened

Tear gas fired to disperse defiant protesters – as it happened
November 28 17:22 2015

Police have fired tear gas and used pepper spray against hundreds of opposition protesters as they took to the streets today for a second time, defying a government order to confine protests to the Artificial Beach grounds in Malé.

Live blog ended at 1:00am

12:43pm: In a tweet just now, police said they have dispersed the protest with minimum force.

12:25am: Police have cleared out the main Artificial Beach without much resistance. Pepper-spray was used against some protesters. Heavy police presence at Artificial Beach. Our reporters at the scene have observed the arrest of MDP council member Anwar Ibrahim.

12:11am: About 20 riot police officers have entered the Artificial Beach grounds from the Majeedhee Magu entrance and are clearing out the area. No clashes yet.

12:07am: All roads to the Artificial Beach have been cordoned off. Protesters are walking up to the police shields and turning back and going down alternate streets.

11:57pm: MDP supporters are preparing to march. A police crackdown is expected.

MDP minjuvaan

MDP minjuvaan police

10:50pm: In a tweet at 10:30pm, the police said they will allow MDP to continue their protest until midnight within the Artificial Beach grounds.

Home Minister Umar Naseer, in an interview with pro-government TV Channel 13 tonight, said the government would ensure Nasheed’s name would not appear on the ballot for 2018 elections, and said political activities will not be allowed to take place on Malé’s streets. “This is a lesson MDP needs to learn… we will eliminate this culture of plunging the streets into turmoil.”

10:45pm: MP Ibrahim ‘Ibu’ Mohamed Solih just read out a message from former President Nasheed: “I am wearing a ribbon to take part in the movement to liberate Maldives. I call on everyone to remain courageous. God willing, we will emerge victorious.” He also included a Dhivehi verse: “Every dark night ends with the light of dawn.”

10:24pm: The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives and the Ministry of Law and Gender have urged parents to refrain from taking children to protests after several children were affected by tear gas at the Artificial Beach today. MDP, however, said the children who were affected were at the swimming area and play ground at the public grounds.

9:55pm: Some 500 people are gathered at the Artificial Beach. Speeches highlighting government corruption are ongoing. The MDP says it will march after speeches.

8:20pm: MDP has issued a statement condemning police’s use of excessive force:

“The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) strongly condemns the unlawful disruptions and harassment of its continuous peaceful protest and the Police’s use of excessive force against protesters. Police behavior towards protesters has been unprofessional and abusive, demonstrating that their operational independence is directly compromised by the Government’s political objectives.

On Friday night the MDP’s demonstration was unlawfully disrupted at approximately 1045 pm. The Police unplugged the electricity at the protest site, after entering the MDP’s campaign office without a warrant, and dispersed the crowd onto the road, blocking off all main roads leading out of the protest area. Protesters were heavily pepper sprayed at close range. MDP Vice President Mohamed Shifaz, Deputy Chairperson Ali Shiyam, and former Cabinet Minister Mohamed Aslam were among some of the protesters who had to be hospitalized for further treatment.

At approximately 1am MDP Member of Parliament Mohamed Rasheed Hussain was detained and beaten inside the police vehicle while he was taken to the Police Headquarters. Inside the vehicle, police beat him with their fists, caps and batons. He was only released once other police officers at the headquarters realized he was a Member of Parliament.

On Saturday, MDP members again gathered at the protest site to prepare for a peaceful march. As soon as protesters began walking, the police immediately blocked all roads unlawfully stating that people were not allowed to protest on the street. Demonstrators including Members of Parliament, and the leader of MDP’s Parliamentary Group, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih were heavily pepper sprayed at close range by riot police. Two teargas canisters were thrown into the Artificial Beach area, which includes a swimming area and children’s playground. People were indiscriminately pepper sprayed and forced to leave the area by riot Police.

3 protesters were taken by ambulance for further treatment as a result of being pepper sprayed at close range, combined with the affects of the tear gas. Deputy Mayor of Male’ and MDP’s Women’s Wing President Shifa Mohamed was also manhandled by Police.

The Police for the third time entered MDP campaign office without a court warrant, again unplugging the electricity.

13 protesters have been arrested, including President Nasheed’s 2013 running mate and former Education Minister Musthafa Luthfy and MDP national council member Mohamed Waheed.

The MDP calls upon the international community to impress upon the government of Maldives to protect people’s constitutional rights and to stop using the police service as a tool to suppress the political opposition.

MDP’s International Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Gafoor said, “the deterioration of democratic rights is increasingly evident as the Government uses a Police service the President himself claimed to be compromised to arbitrarily restrict the right to assembly.”

7:33pm: Artificial Beach is calm for now. MDP members are preparing to stage a march tonight, too.

6:31pm: MDP MP and Spokesman Imthiyaz Fahmy, condemning police’s heavy-handed tactics, has urged supporters to regroup at the Artificial Beach. The party remains committed to a 73 hour 13 minute protest as initially announced, he said.

He has called on President Abdulla Yameen to respond to the MDP’s demands, which include releasing Nasheed and other jailed politicians, an independent inquiry into the murder of MP Afrasheem Ali and the disappearance of journalist Ahmed Rilwan, as well as meaningful dialogue with political parties.

More than a hundred angry protesters remain at the beach. Police have lifted barricades and opened Bodu Thakurufaanu Magu to traffic.

It is worth noting that dozens of MDP supporters remained inside Haruge throughout the night last night, and continued their sit-in at the Artificial Beach today. The police have said MDP would be allowed to protest at the beach, but would not be allowed to march on the streets.

Calm has been restored on the streets of Malé, the police said in a tweet just now.

6:17pm: Dozens of riot police are active at the Artificial Beach. Barricades have been set up to block protesters from leaving the Artificial Beach. Pockets of protesters remain dispersed at the area.

The police say some 13 individuals have been arrested.

Photos of heavy police presence:

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Photos from police dispersing protesters at Artificial Beach from around 5:30pm:

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Several protesters have been taken to the hospital after being pepper-sprayed at close-range. The spray is unusually strong and leaves red stains on clothing, protesters have said.

Pepper spray1

5:45pm: Hundreds of protesters set out from Artificial Beach at 4:30pm. Instead of marching down Majeedhee Magu, they walked towards the surf point. Protesters broke through barricades set at the area, but were pushed back towards the beach by riot police holding shields.

Pepper spray was used at close range against the leaders of the protest, some of whom were wearing goggles.

At the beach, the police had fired atleast two tear gas canisters. A light rain began to fall. Riot police entered MDP’s campaign office Haruge and ordered supporters to leave. Two policemen guarded the entrance for a few minutes and are now attempting to confine protesters to the beach.

The air is booming with calls for former President Mohamed Nasheed’s release. Reporters at the scene say their eyes are still burning from the effects of tear gas.

A pocket of some 150 protesters, who had broken off and marched down the narrow lanes in the area on to Majeedhee Magu, are now trapped between police lines. The police have now arrested six men, inclduing Musthafa Luthfy, Nasheed’s running mate in the 2013 polls.

5:20pm: Here are some photos from the Artificial Beach.

Shifaz Eva pepper spray

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