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Sep 7, 2017

Anatomy of assault: why police were wrong in treatment of Marisol Amaya

There is mounting outrage tonight, including from us here at Channel Five, at the unnecessary use of force against the media by the police on Tuesday. Krem’s Marisol Amaya was attacked while executing her duties as a reporter covering the tear gassing of Belizeans at the Tower Hill Bridge. A group of P.U.P. protestors headed there following a peaceful anti-corruption march in Orange Walk Town. We find the police behavior to be unwarranted and excessive against Amaya and others who were violently treated. While condemnation is coming from many quarters the police today attempted to justify their actions. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The physical assault of journalist Marisol Amaya in the line of duty as a Krem Radio correspondent during the chaos that erupted near theTowerHillBridgeon Wednesday is most regrettable.  Not only is the incident a very poor reflection of the Belize Police Department, it also goes to show that there exists no protocol between law enforcement and the media in times of civil disobedience.  Disturbing images of uniformed officers manhandling the reporter and slamming her to the pavement, amid the tear-gassing of PUP protestors who were intent on blocking the toll bridge have incensed many, including her colleagues in the media.

 

Elodio Aragon Jr.

Elodio Aragon Jr., Minister of State, Police

“I would like the general public and the media to know that the police department has a job to do and in that situation we have always asked the media to stay a distance away from the situation.  In this regard, the media was up and front of the situation and in that regard we ended up having to move everybody, including the media.  [At] no time did the police department have any intention of attacking the media.  That has never been a part of policing.”

 

Perhaps that fundamental principle was never imparted to members of the Special Patrol Unit, who went about clearing the obstructed stretch of road in a most violent manner.  That directive came from Assistant Commissioner of Police Edward Broaster.

 

ACP Edward Broaster, Operations Commander

ACP Edward Broaster

“This was a clear obstruction of a major thoroughfare where members of the public were gathering illegally, blocking the ordinary citizens from traversing the highway.  We had a couple right behind the first vehicle that blocked the highway that needed to get to the hospital and were attempting to take the risk of going around that vehicle, with the possibility of plunging into the ravine and an ambulance was in the line of traffic backed up, and we had to clear the highway.  We did so without breaking any bones or causing any serious injuries to any individual.”

 

This morning, the brass of the department attempted to rationalize what to many is an apparent singling out of a well-known newscaster.  The officers that are seen roughing up Amaya during the confusion went as far as trying to hit her with a baton.  Those gathered on the northern end of the bridge, including P.U.P. Party Leader John Briceño, Orange Walk South Area Representative Jose Mai and members of the media, had indeed been asked to clear the road.

 

Elodio Aragon Jr.

“At the end of the day the police has a job to do and the police officer on the ground has to make those decisions as to how and what he needs to do with the least necessary force, and in that situation the use of tear gas was the least that he could have done, despite [the fact] that they did not want to move when they were pushing them.”

 

The excessive use of force, particularly where it concerns the Leader of the Opposition and the media, appears to be unwarranted.

 

John Briceño, P.U.P. Leader

John Briceño

“I went through probably what the poor people in Belize City went through on Friday.  It’s a horrible feeling and I don’t want our people to get hurt, that’s why I said, okay, let us move.  That was uncalled for, it was unwarranted, it was unnecessary and I am holding the prime minister, none other than the prime minister responsible for what has transpired this afternoon here at the toll bridge.”

 

Admittedly, ACP Broaster says that the media did in fact attempt to interview Briceno off to the side of the road, however, his supporters were still adamant in obstructing the flow of traffic.

ACP Edward Broaster

“When we asked them to move and we popped the first canisters the group went down about maybe twenty yards from where they were at first and you all attempted to interview the Leader of the Opposition indeed and he had his supporters right there, still blocking the road.  And we asked to move again and they refused and we popped the second tear [gas canister] and then the crowd started dispersing.  They went down further and they congregated again, keep blocking the highway and we discharged another round of canisters and then they went all the way to Tower Hill and they blocked there again and we discharged some more and that was when we cleared the highway.”

 

The Minister of Police has issued a broad apology to those affected by the tear gas incident, including the media, but stopped short of a personal expression of regret for what happened to Marisol Amaya.

Elodio Aragon Jr.

“The police apologizes to those members of the public, including the members of the press who were out there about their lawful business and were affected by the measures used by the police to restore law and order.”

 

Isani Cayetano reporting for News Five.

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3 Responses for “Anatomy of assault: why police were wrong in treatment of Marisol Amaya”

  1. carlos says:

    It seems that Mr. Broaster got special directives from the top. This shows the poor leadership of a police that holds such a position. There was no riot at that point. Mr. Boaster started the riot afterwords. No stones or missiles were being thrown to the Police so there was no need to manhandle any one.This shows the poor training these animals of the police department have. Its regrettable that the police in our country still behaves in this way.
    The police that manhandled Mrs. Marisol Amaya tell the people a lot. Has no leadership skills to deal with such situation. ( Well we should point out that these people are not in such a position because they deserve it but they are there because of politics, but their time to go is soon approaching) The minimum the Compos=le or Mr. Aragon should do is to demote this police to ordinary rank of the police. Send him some where where he can get some education on how to deal the media people.

  2. Belizean Boy says:

    It was very unfortunate that a news reporter and especially a woman who was there to cover a story should be treated in such a horrendous manner. I condemn the brutal action of the police in roughly manhandling and abusing this woman. I have stood totally against abuse of women and now the culprits come no other but from the government itself. It’s a shameful act for the world to have witnessed.

  3. Annie says:

    The excuse and apology for the treatment of Ms Amayo from the highest level of government is unacceptable and outrageous!
    Were the people protesting committing criminal acts of violence or just trying to make their voices heard? Were we at war that such force and tear gas had to be used? Are we not better than this as a country? When do we stop the cycle of our long history of cruelty to women and children? When does the violence against women end? Where did they get the authority and absolute power to treat people this way? The very people who pay their salaries!
    There is something wrong in a culture when we find excuses for this unacceptable behavior. We are far better than this!
    I am sickened by what I have seen coming from those who should be role models for our children and young men.
    Everyone needs to be outraged – it could be you next!

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