The police in a state should be properly guided. They should not be instructed to do what is not provided by law or not to do what is provided by law. Freedom of assembly and association are linked. When people associate to form a movement as long as the movement is not illegal, they also have the right to freedom of lawful assembly. The police have all powers to disperse an assembly when it is considered to be unlawful assembly. An unlawful assembly must be defined by law and the police should temper their action in accordance with the dictates of the law.
Section 69 of the Criminal code defines what unlawful assembly is. It reads:
“When three or more persons assemble with intent to commit an offence, or, being assembled with intent to carry some common purpose, conduct themselves in such a manner as to cause persons in the neighbourhood reasonably to fear that the persons so assembled will commit a breach of the peace, or will by such assembly needlessly and without any reasonable occasion provoke other persons to commit a breach of the peace, they are an unlawful assembly.
“It is immaterial that the original assembling was lawful if, being assembled, they conduct themselves with a common purpose in such a manner as aforesaid.
“When an unlawful assembly has begun to execute the purpose for which it is assembled by a breach of the peace and to the terror of the public, the assembly is called a riot, and the persons assembled are said to be riotously assembled.”
It is therefore important for the Inspector General of Police to carefully link instruction with what the law provides for. The police should not be instructed to do what is not provided for by law. Foroyaa was informed that a group of people wanted to assemble at Semega Janneh Hall but they were dispersed by the police. A Foroyaa reporter rushed to find out the details, but did not get there on time to find out the details. No report has also been filed at the editor’s desk complaining of interruption of a programme by the police. See next issue to follow up a developing story.