Five hours in custody
Nine members of the Democratic National Alliance (DNA), including DNA Leader Arinthia Komolafe and chairman Omar Smith, were arrested early yesterday for attempting to breach Parliament and for unlawful assembly in relation to a protest they staged outside Parliament in early March.
They were not charged, according to Commissioner of Police Paul Rolle, and were released hours later.
“I will make my decision when the investigation is finished,” said Rolle when asked if there is a possibility they could still be arraigned before a magistrate.
“…Based on what I’ve shared with you is what I’d want to go into with the case because the case is still being investigated. Notice, I did not call any names and when I see the report from the investigating officer, at that point I will meet with, I met with them already and I will meet with them with the decision.”
Rolle said the investigation is expected to last “a few days”.
The DNA demonstrated on Bay Street on March 3 against the emergency order and demanded that Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis “ring the bell”.
During that demonstration, a crowd of DNA supporters — led by Komolafe — rushed into Parliament Square before being escorted away from the area by police.
Speaking about the events that resulted in the arrests, Rolle said, “As you are aware, persons can demonstrate. The requirement of the law is to request a permit from the commissioner of police. That was not done. When it was brought to my attention, I said to the officer at the time to speak to the persons and ask them to disperse and we will deal with them later.
“That was done and a short while later, it was brought to my attention that the group of persons were at the Parliament. Parliament was in session and these persons attempted to forcefully gain their way into the Parliament that was sitting at the time.
“They did not have any permission again to demonstrate as required by law and I instructed the officers at the time not to arrest anybody and that we would deal with it later by way of summons where we will just invite persons in so as not to create a scene, an unnecessary scene at the Parliament.”
He said he later learned that the officer in charge of the Central Police Station had invited the individuals to the station to be interviewed about the alleged breaches.
When asked why it took police three weeks to interview the DNA members, Rolle replied, “I have a year. I’m saying Parliament was still meeting and I didn’t wish to interfere with that. So, that’s really all that there is to it.”
Komolafe said she was contacted by police on Friday and asked to come in as soon as possible.
Her husband, Emmanuel Komolafe, said she arrived at the Central Police Station around 9:30 a.m. for questioning.
She and the other DNA members were taken into police custody a short while later.
Asked why they were arrested after being called in for questioning, the commissioner said, “In order for the police to interview persons, we complete the detention record. Like I said, I’ve spoken to all the attorneys and I understand that is [the] normal process.”
Although the size of the crowd varied at times, at least two dozen DNA supporters were initially present outside the police station to protest the arrests. At least a dozen supporters from other political groupings showed up at the station to support the DNA.
“We just feel that it is definitely political victimization,” DNA Vice Chairman Derek Smith told The Nassau Guardian.
“I thought this was left behind under the PLP administration of [Sir Lynden] Pindling’s days, but apparently the FNM has come into power and they have blown it up.
“The very things that I fought against are the very things that I am fighting against in 2021. This has been going on since the early 70s and 80s of the PLP. It’s just sad that the police [are] being used as political tools, used for political victimization and basically the police are the goons of the ministry of defense.”
While noting that his children were “very concerned” about what was happening with their mother, Emmanuel Komolafe said he believes his wife’s arrest was politically motivated.
“I make no excuse for it,” he said.
“If you know me well, I don’t take nonsense. I don’t talk foolishness.”
However, the commissioner denied that yesterday’s arrests were politically motivated.
He said he only answers to the constitution.
“I do not take instructions from politicians,” Rolle said.
He said he made the determination “to take the action that was done today”.
“There’s nothing political about it,” Rolle said.
“I don’t know and I don’t see colors. So, whether it’s red, yellow or green — everybody gets treated the same. I believe my record on that was straightforward.”
Komolafe and the other DNA members were held by police for about five hours.
They were released around 2:50 p.m.
“It’s been a very long day,” Komolafe said moments after she was released.
“It’s just unfortunate that we have gotten to this point, but our spirit is not broken. We’re very strong. We’re very resolute with what it is that we are doing and pushing this message of change in the nation.
“We were brought in this morning for questioning and when we arrived we were told that we were under arrest for unlawful assembly. The matter is still pending at this time, but our team, as you see, they’ve all been held from this morning. We all went through a series of questioning, one behind the other, and now we have been released but the matter is still pending. It will have to go up to headquarters.”
She said the police officers were “very professional”.
Komolafe said she and the other members did not have “any challenges” with the officers.
“We understand that they were just carrying out their jobs and following process,” she said. “But we believe that it has come from somewhere higher.”
Komolafe said she “absolutely” believes that her arrest and the arrests of the eight other DNAs were a form of political victimization.
Englerston MP Glenys Hanna-Martin showed up at the police station around noon to show her solidarity.
She said the arrests were “not sitting well with my spirit”.
“I think this is something we should all be concerned about,” Hanna-Martin told reporters.
“That’s why I’m here because today it’s Komolafe and her members. Tomorrow, it’ll be someone else. You’re trying to stifle debate, intimidate and to control. That won’t happen. It won’t happen.”
Former FNM Deputy Leader Loretta Butler-Turner, who arrived at the station shortly before 2 p.m., called on Bahamians to show their solidarity with Komolafe and the DNA.
“This is about democracy,” she said.
“I am a Bahamian. I am no longer involved in frontline politics, but when we are having our freedoms oppressed and suppressed in this manner, we have to ask the question: today for them, tomorrow for us. And so, we as Bahamians should stand in solidarity with any organization that is being held and oppressed in this manner.”
Centreville MP Reece Chipman also showed his support for the DNA “not as a party, but as individuals who were out there representing their voice and whatever their party position was”.
“For me, being out there was just to show others and the community of Centreville that I support their voice and their right to be all that they can be,” he said.