UNC activist appeals ruling on one-man protests

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Marsha Walker. Photo by Jeff Mayers

FORMER UNC 2020 general election candidate and temporary Opposition senator Marsha Walker has appealed a judge’s dismissal of her interpretation lawsuit which sought to clarify the law on whether approval by the police commissioner was needed for one-man silent protests.

Earlier this month, Justice Joan Charles dismissed Walker’s lawsuit and ordered her to pay the State’s legal costs for defending it.

In her decision, Justice Charles ruled that the case was unnecessary as the Summary Offences Act was clear that approval was not needed.

In her appeal, Walker’s lawyers contend that Charles erred when she found that there was no live dispute between the parties to justify the court’s intervention.

They pointed out that their client was forced to file the lawsuit after the police told her permission was needed.

“The court further erred in failing to have regard to the fact that prior to the filing its submission in response, the respondent and the interested party did not give any indication that it did not support the interpretation and meaning set out in the claim such that the claim was being conceded and no longer necessary,” the notice of appeal says.

The appeal also contends that Walker should not have been ordered to pay costs since the legal position was only clarified when she filed her lawsuit.

Walker’s original lawsuit contended she attempted to engage in a one-man silent and peaceful protest outside the Parliament between July and November 2021.

After the third time, Walker wrote to the commissioner’s office seeking clarification on the official policy. The lawsuit said the head of the police’s legal department Anya Ramute-Mohan informed her that the approval of the commissioner was required for a one-man peaceful protest.

In her ruling, Charles said the inconsistency and unequal application of the law had created a sense of arbitrariness, confusion and uncertainty on if permission was required for protests or not since in the past, there have been public protests, including one-man silent protests, without permission of the commissioner and, in some cases, held under the watchful eyes of the police.

“If such permission is required, the conduct of the police raises even more fundamental issues regarding the right to equality of treatment from a public authority in the exercise of its functions under section 4(d) of the Constitution.

“It is plainly discriminatory and fundamentally unfair for the police to demand that the claimant obtain prior permission for her one-man silent protest and disrupt her other protests while threatening to arrest and charge her while others are allowed to protest without any permission with impunity.

She added, “There is no requirement that an individual is required to notify and/or apply for the consent of the Commissioner of Police to conduct a one-man silent protest.”

It was because Walker’s claim on the alleged ambiguity of the law on public protests did not require interpretation, her lawsuit was dismissed.