Thursday, September 21, 2023, will go down in the annals of Ghana's history as a day that was filled with tension, determination, and a fight for democratic rights.
A demonstration, #OccupyJulorbiHouse, organized by a group called the Democracy Hub to draw attention to the economic hardship faced by Ghanaians turned into chaos as protesters were arrested by the Ghana Police Service.
Commentary on social media alleged that bystanders and even journalists were also detained alongside the protesters. The Ghana Police Service issued a statement on the arrest of 49 of the protesters but issued another statement to deny the arrest of a BBC journalist.
Below is a timeline of how the #OccupyJulorBiHouse demonstration progressed throughout the day.
Morning – Convergence at 37 Lorry Station
The day began with peaceful protesters gathering at the 37 Lorry Station in anticipation of a planned march towards the Jubilee House, Ghana's seat of government.
Before the protest commenced, the Ghana Police Service issued a stern warning to the public, cautioning against participating in the demonstration. They revealed in a public statement that the protest was unlawful.
Protest Organizers Stand Firm
Despite the police warning, the leaders of Democracy Hub remained resolute, insisting that the protest would proceed as originally scheduled. They argued that they had not been served with the supposed application filed by the Accra Regional Command of the Ghana Police Service.
POLICE REFUTE CLAIM OF NON-SERVICE OF COURT PROCESS BY THE CONVENERS OF DEMOCRACY HUB pic.twitter.com/hJXy2NBO3D
— Ghana Police Service (@GhPoliceService) September 20, 2023
In a last-minute twist, the police clarified that they had served the organizers through their lawyers, Atuguba & Associates, on Tuesday, September 19. The police urged the public to disregard any invitations to participate in an unlawful demonstration.
Protesters “Defy” Police
Undeterred by the warnings, protesters showed up at the convergence point as planned, ready to exercise their democratic rights. According to the Democracy Hub, they had not received any notice from the Ghana Police Service barring them from their planned protest.
Arrests and Detainment
However, as protesters assembled, the police took action, arresting and detaining them. The detained protesters were taken to various police stations, including Dansoman, Sukura, and Osu Police stations. Activists online and on-ground encouraged Lawyers to provide legal assistance to the detainees.
POLICE ARREST 49 SUSPECTS FOR UNLAWFUL ASSEMBLY AND VIOLATION OF PUBLIC ORDER ACT pic.twitter.com/KPROj6B9rr
— Ghana Police Service (@GhPoliceService) September 21, 2023
Alleged Arrest of BBC Reporter Amid #OccupyJulorHiHouse Protest
A British Broadcasting Corporation reporter, Thomas Naadi and his cameraman found themselves reportedly caught up in the unfolding tensions. According to initial reports from local media, they were arrested by the police while covering the demonstration.
While Thomas Naadi was subsequently released, the Ghana Police Service released a statement denying that they had arrested the BBC journalist and his cameraman during the demonstration.
The incident has garnered international attention, with media organizations and human rights groups including Amnesty International closely monitoring the situation and speaking against the arrest.
Support and Outpouring of Solidarity
— Kla (@Cina_Soul) September 21, 2023
The detained protesters received support from various quarters, with supplies of food, drinks, and essentials being dispatched to them. Notable Ghanaian personalities, including musicians DopeNation, Twitch, Kofi Mole and Cina Soul were spotted during the protests. They were also seen at the police stations in a bid to show solidarity.
Assault on Bridget Otoo
— #TV3GH (@tv3_ghana) September 21, 2023
Renowned Ghanaian media personality Bridget Otoo was also reportedly assaulted by the police while peacefully participating in the demonstration.
According to Bridget Otoo who spoke to TV3 reporters, her ordeal began when she questioned the police's treatment of a young man who had been wrongfully arrested during the protest. Her inquiry about the circumstances of the arrest led to a confrontation with the police officers on the scene. During this altercation, her top was allegedly ripped by the police.
— Helen Appiah- Ampofo (@FlavaFlavswife) September 21, 2023
In a viral video, her husband was spotted at the police station angrily dressing down the police officers for their behaviour.
Release of Detained Protesters
As of the filing of this report, the majority of the detained protesters who numbered over 49 had been released from the charge office at the Accra Regional Police HQ and other police stations across the city.
Phones Held, Freedom Regained
Despite their release, protesters may not be allowed to take their seized phones with them tonight. However, they are expected to return tomorrow morning to pick up their phones after identification.
Bernard Mornah's Call for Democracy
Former Chairman of the People's National Convention (PNC), Bernard Mornah, who serves as the Covener for the Justice For Ghana movement in an interview with 3News delivered a powerful message.
He stated, “We cannot allow our Democracy to be frustrated by the actions of the Police.” He also revealed that he was disappointed in actions by the police to quell the protest
Oliver Barker's Release
Oliver Barker, Covener for the #OccupyJulorbiHouse movement who had been detained at the Railways Police Station, was also released.
3News will continue to monitor this developing story and provide updates as more information becomes available.