LGBT rally: Cops commandeer activists’ vans
A group of activists who marked LGBT Pride Month with a rally in Manila on Friday was arrested by the police in a way rarely seen in crowd-control operations.
The protesters proceeded from Morayta to Mendiola, the rally site outside Malacañang, in two vans. Upon their arrest, some of them were ordered to return to their vehicles. Police officers then forced their drivers out and took over the vans, the protesters told the Inquirer.
Around noon, about 20 members of Bahaghari, Gabriela, Sanglahi and other allied groups held the rally at Mendiola Freedom Park to celebrate Pride Month, an annual celebration by the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community at the end of June.
“Since it is Pride Month, we were calling for equal rights. We were also protesting against the jeepney phaseout, the terror bill and we were asking for better government assistance and mass testing during this pandemic,” said Bahaghari spokesperson Rey Valmores-Salinas. “We did not bring weapons; we brought our cries of protest.”
The protesters, who observed physical distancing, were later surrounded by members of the Manila Police District (MPD) in full antiriot gear and were ordered to disperse, Salinas said.
When one protester tried to negotiate with the police to let them finish the program, he was pinned to the ground by three policemen. The other officers started to break up the gathering.
Salinas said the protesters eventually complied with the order to disperse. But after some of them had boarded their vans, the police forcibly removed the drivers of both vehicles from their seats and commandeered the vehicles. The other protesters were forced into MPD vehicles.
“I was among those … trapped in the car. We were asking why we were being arrested but they were not answering,” Salinas said.
“The police did not even read the Miranda rights,” she said, referring to the proper police procedure to read a person’s rights upon his arrest.
In an interview, Fudge Tajar, a lawyer who arrived at MPD to help the activists, said: “Is this normal procedure? That was a private vehicle they took and there were people inside. That is not the process for arrest and [the police] can be liable for car[jacking].”
Sought for comment, Police Capt. Arnold Echalar, head of the MPD’s General Assignment and Investigative Section, said “I don’t see procedural lapses because [the arrest was made] under the rule [of] hot pursuit.”
The protesters’ vehicles, he added, were brought to the MPD headquarters on UN Avenue in Ermita, Manila.
‘Without legal basis’
According to MPD public information office chief Police Lt. Col. Carlo Manuel, one of the protesters sprayed some kind on liquid on the antiriot officers, prompting his arrest.
Echalar said the protesters were also “uncooperative’’ as they refused to undergo “rapid testing’’ for the coronavirus upon arrival at the MPD headquarters.
He explained that individuals arrested and brought to the MPD are made to undergo such tests as a measure against virus transmission while in detention.
Tajar said the protesters would file a case against the MPD for making arrests “without a legal basis.”
The protesters remained in detention at press time, except for three who were released because they were minors.
The MPD said the protesters would be charged with resistance and disobedience to authority, illegal assembly and violation of Republic Act No. 11332 or the Law on Reporting of Communicable Diseases.
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