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There's still Covid-19 ban on public gatherings - Police to #FixTheCountry protesters

BY: Graphic.com.gh

The police has reminded organisers of the #FixTheCountry protest that there is still a ban on public gatherings as part of the coronavirus pandemic protocols.

The organisers of the protest had written to the police informing them of their intention to hit the streets on May 9, 2021 but in a response, the police said they will not be available to provide them protection.

The police however reminded and advised the organisers that the ban on public gatherings in line with COVID-19 protocols is still in force.

One of the convenors of the group, Adatse Brownson has said they are still engaging the police on the issue with their lawyers.

A social media campaign with the hashtag #FixTheCountry started at the weekend with the organisers arguing that the Akufo-Addo administration should fix the problems confronting Ghana.

According to the group, every sector of the country needs to be fixed.

Below is a copy of the notice to the police

Police reaction

Speaking on behalf of the Greater Accra Regional Police, DSP Effia Tenge said the police received the letter of notification about the planned protest on May 9 on Tuesday afternoon and has since met with the convenor and one other leader.

She said the command told them they could embark on the demonstration, however, "there is an imposition or restriction" banning large public gatherings such as what they intend to organise and therefore the police may not be able to provide them with protection.

However, they could come back when the restrictions are lifted for the police to provide them the necessary protection as required by the Public Order Act.

What is the campaign about

The protest dubbed: “FixTheCountry, is in response to what the convenors say was economic hardship in Ghana under the leadership of President Akufo-Addo.

Many have taken to Twitter to express their views with what they consider as “economic mess” confronting the country and they want leadership to fix it.

Below is a copy of the notification they sent to the police

“For Your Attention Ghana Police Service Accra

Notice of Intention to exercise constitutional rights under Article 21(1)(d) and (f) of the 1992 Constitution
Compliance with Statutory Requirement to Give Notice
We write with reference to Section 1 of the Public Order Act (Act 491), which provides that any person who desires to hold any special event within the meaning of that Act in any public place shall notify the police of his intention not less than 5 days before the date of the special event,” they noted in a statement.

“In this connection, kindly note that:
(a) Date: This special event will be held on May 9th, 2021.

(b) Significance of the Date: The date “May 9th” has been spontaneously and
specifically chosen for two reasons. First, it captures the restless spirit of over 126 Ghanaians who lost their lives in the May 9th Accra Sports Stadium Disaster due to institutionalized incompetence and disregard for Ghanaian lives. Secondly, the Protest commemorates the 26th Anniversary of the Kume Preko Demonstration of 11 May 1995. Thus, the event draws inspiration from the undying culture of protest and dissent that has forged our democracy, and which Kume Preko has become a synonym for in our collective memory.

(c) Purpose: The Event, which is a single purpose event, is being organized on the back of a string of consistent broken promises by successive governments; and in exercise of our democratic rights as citizens to express our frustration over perennial Governmental incompetence, refusal and/or inability to fix the country.

(d) Motivations of Organizers: The Organizers believe, as does the President, that democracy is not a spectator sport. We are committed to improving the substance of governance in this country by ensuring that the ordinary voices of Ghanaians provide a mechanism to hold elected officials accountable. There comes a point where enough is enough. Just fix the Country!!! That’s our only message. We have had it with purposeful deceit and the absence of truth and genuine accountability in how this country is being governed,” they notified the Police Service.

“(e) Format: The special event will entail a socially distanced assembly of people embarking on a silent march.

(f) Proposed route and destination: The March will proceed peacefully and at a socially distanced pace from the Blackstar Independence Square Station. From the Independence Square, the group will continue along the 28th February Road, then join the Atta Mills High Street; then down Graphic Road towards circle, using Dr. Busia Highway, then return on Dr Busia Highway to meet Ring Road West Road, then continue on that street through Ring Road central, then Odoi Kwao Loop, then join Hilla Limann Highway, then Turn on Sunyani Avenue continuing straight till turn on Kanda Link, then Turn on President Drive, then continue till we hit Liberation Road, then continue down Liberation Road till 37 Maxmart where Group Disperses. [A Print of the route on Map is attached.]
(g) No intention to breach the Peace: The Organizers do not intend to deliver a petition the Presidency.

What’s the point of that? We have no intention of gaining entry into any security installation, destroying private property or breaching the peace in any other way. The March is about due process and government accountability. As such we intend to conduct the March in a manner consistent with the laws of the country, with particular regard to our rights and duties under the Constitution and such other relevant. This notice being itself an indication of such intent. There is no intention to engage in the same patterns of lawless conduct that elected officials and their appointees are prone to. Also, we assure you that unlike the 2020 Elections which led to the unexplained deaths of Ghanaian citizens for which, till this day, no official has been held accountable for; our March is not grounded in gratuitous violence.

(h) Starting Time: The Organizers anticipate that the people will assembly from 8:30am. The march along the outlined route will start at 9:30am.

(i) Time of closure of the event: The crowd will disperse at 2pm.
(j) Signature: As required by law, this notification is evidently in writing and
has been undersigned or on behalf of the organizers of the special event.

Route of Planned Protest March

Compliance with COVID-19 Health Directives

1. The Organizers note, with regret, that for nearly 18 months since the outbreak of the covid-19 health emergency, the Government has not developed any protocols for how public assembly for the purpose of exercising the right to freedom of assembly including the freedom to take part in processions and demonstrations.”

“2. Despite this several public gatherings have been organized by the State, including political rallies, voting exercises and other such events during this period. As the government has shown, it is possible for Public gatherings, especially in outdoor spaces to be carried out without significant risk of a spread of infections.

3. We note in particular that throughout November 2020 to January 2021, the Minister for Information Kojo Oppong Nkrumah continuously challenged any claims that political gatherings led to any increases in COVID-19 cases, or rate of infection.

4. We are assured that if political gatherings drawing thousands of people; and a voting exercise entailing over 13 million Ghanaians did not lead to a rise in new infections, it is possible to hold a public event, in compliance with public health protocols, without an increased risk to public health.”

“In this regard, the organizers will take all measures to ensure that the March is undertaken in compliance with all relevant and well-known public health directives. We are certain that constitutional rights are not entirely displaced by public health situations, irrespective of measures taken to anticipate and address risks associated with such situations. In this connection, the organizers:

1. Have sought advice from relevant public health specialists regarding how to ensure that a public assembly is compliant with relevant public health protocols.

2. Have referred to international best practices regarding how public gatherings, including processions and demonstrations can be made COVID-19 Compliant.

3. Will ensure that all public messaging regarding the event emphasize all relevant public health protocols.

4. Will ensure that all persons taking part in the event adhere to the relevant public health protocols.

5. Have set below a tentative guide for making the event COVID-19 compliant

Proposed COVID-19 Protocols for the May 9th FIXTHECOUNTRY Protest

• Each person will stay at least 2 metres (3 steps) away from anyone they do not live with.

• Each person must wash their hands with soap and water before you leave the house
• Each person must use hand sanitiser gel regularly during the March
• Each person must wash their hands as soon as they get home – do this for at least 20 seconds
• Each person must cover their mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
• Each person must carry a utilities bag in which they will put used and wash their hands afterwards or use hand sanitisers immediately after
• Each person must refrain from touching their eyes, nose or mouth if their hands are not clean.

Social distancing:

All persons attending the Event should ensure that social distancing is practiced traveling to and from, and during the FIXTHECOUNTRY Protest. This means that: