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Police:’Thugs’causedfracas during BTC protest

Police said yesterday that a group of’thugs’was at the February 23 protest against the sale of 51 percent of the Bahamas TelecommunicationsCompany(BTC)causing a disturbance, however, they admitted that no arrests were made.

“There[was]a group of thugs, 25 to 30, who had placards with them,”said Sergeant Dwight Smith, chairman of the Police Staff Association.

“They were walking in the downtown area and walking to stores creating a disturbance.”

He spoke at a press conference at the Police Staff Association office on Bank Lane a week after Minister of National Security Tommy Turnquest accused political operatives of bringing accused murderers and other violent offenders to the protest.

“There were persons out there known to the police for armed robbery, drug arrest, causing harm, possession of ammunition and firearms, assault with a deadly weapon, murder, possession of firearms, rape, armed robbery and shop-breaking, kidnapping, stealing and threats of death, house and shop-breaking, possession of dangerous drugs,”he said.

When asked why no arrests were made given that police knew that criminals or thugs were present, Smith said”because they were not doing anything wrong”.

He could not say whether the criminals were out on bail or if they had been previously charged.The Nassau Guardianalso contacted Assistant Commissioner Glenn Miller, however, he declined to respond. He suggestedThe Guardiancontact the commissioner of police.

Smith would only say that the men are”known to police.”

Insinuating that some people were paid to protest, Smith added he heard some of the thugs say if they did not receive their pay”there would be some problems in the downtown area.”

He said he believes that only a handful of people were really there to protest the BTC sale.

“We saw so many things going on that we wondered[whether we were]dealing with a BTC situation or a political association,”Smith said.

He added that there were people walking around with political photos and”advancing a political group.”

During the demonstration hundreds of protestors fought with police on Bay Street. A series of clashes occurred as the demonstrators forcefully removed barricades the police had set up to block them from entering Parliament Square.

The police were heavily criticized after the demonstration, with some people accusing them of using excessive force.

But Smith said thepolice are charged by law to use all necessary force to ensure the law is enforced.

“During that demonstration the police would have erected barricades to ensure control for safety of those demonstrating and those speculating.

“When persons decide that they are going to go through the police barricade, the police have a duty to enforce the law. It was not for a political agenda. And when those persons decide to try to break through the police barricade the police did what was necessary, and lawful to restore law and order. If the police didn’t do that, I think we’d have international media here,”Smith said.

He added that several officers were also injured during the scuffle.

Timothy Ingraham sti
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