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Cops told, “Hands off the teachers!”

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Posted: Monday, April 19, 2021. 5:42 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: By order of Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams, police officers are not to forcefully interfere with the ongoing protest actions by the Belize National Teachers’ Union (BNTU) and Public Service Union (PSU).

Unnecessary force should not be used and if the protestors remain peaceful, they will not be aggressively approached, Williams summarized as he spoke to reporters in Belmopan following temporary blockage of primary roads into and out of the Old Capital and elsewhere.

The BNTU and PSU are protesting planned cuts of 10 percent of members’ salaries and freezing of their increments.

Williams, harking back to his time in charge of Eastern Division South in 2016 when a breakdown in communication nearly caused a flashpoint on the first day of the BNTU strike that year on Partridge Street, in front of the KREM compound, said police wished to avoid unnecessary confrontation leading to loss of control, injury and damage to property.

“My instruction to my officers was to ensure that we exercised great restraint. We would have done all that we could to avert the blockage [of roads], but in circumstances where the blockage had [already] occurred, then we would not apply any degree of force to remove them. Instead, what we would do was to maintain our presence, to preserve law and order, and allow the teachers or the joint unions to have their fifteen minutes of fame. And as soon as the fifteen minutes was over, they would unblock the road and we would [all] go about our merry business,” the Commissioner said.

All reports say the protests were peaceful – they continue all week in various forms ahead of a planned national strike starting next week Monday.

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