Riot police in Antigua confronted residents Sunday in the capital, St John’s, protesting what they view as mandatory COVID-19 vaccination and fired tear gas to disperse them.
Officers also arrested several individuals, reports say.
According to local media, it was the third occasion that residents had gathered to picket since the government announced its policy which states that public sector workers must either be vaccinated or take a COVID-19 test every fortnight.
Police Commissioner, Atlee Rodney confirmed that officers used tear gas to disperse the crowd on Sunday, but he said no one was injured.
Rodney told ABS Television News that permission was sought for the demonstration, but in the interest of public health, order and safety, it was denied and the decision was communicated to the organisers.
“We subsequently had verbal communication with them and explained the situation to them, however they decided to defy the instructions, defy the laws of Antigua and Barbuda. They insisted on having a march,” the Police Commissioner explained.
He disclosed that the police contacted the organisers again to dissuade them from having an illegal march, after flyers for the activity were distributed on Saturday.
In addition, Rodney said at the actual demonstration, people ignored repeated requests to disperse.
According to Antigua Observer, the group – Freedom Fighters for Antigua & Barbuda, explained that the Commissioner’s late response to their request for Sunday’s activity made it all but impossible to pursue the appeal process since the activity was scheduled for August 8.
And the group also claimed that no police permission was needed to gather.
ABS Television News reported that police, providing security cover for firemen who later went to put out fires that had been lit on debris piled in the street, were pelted with stones.