Protest against higher electricity tariffs spins out of control

POSTED: 09/22/14 1:36 PM

Aruba - barricades

The police set up barricades to keep the crowd at bay. Photo Caribisch Netwerk / Ariën Rasmijn

ORANJESTAD, Aruba – A manifestation of the Group of Seven and the opposition against higher electricity tariffs spun out of control on Friday afternoon in front of Aruba’s Government Administration Building. The police had to erect barricades and in the end, the riot unit had to step in to control the crowd, Ariën Rasmijn reports on Caribisch Netwerk.

Around five hundred people had answered the call to protest against the higher electricity tariffs. The group gathered in the vicinity of the Wilhelmina Park with the intention to move towards the Government Administration Building. Members of the Group of Seven and union leader René Bernabela of the public sector trade union Topa discussed the plan with police commissioner Trudy Hassell, who was in the process of mediating at that moment.

The Group of Seven wanted Prime Minister Mike Eman to come outside and to listen to them. This time they did not carry a manifesto because in the past handing over such a petition had had no results. Commissioner Hassel told Group of Seven leader Rocky Kelly that Eman was not in the building and that his replacement would not come outside if the protesters did not hand over a manifesto. Hassel suggested that the group send a delegation that could enter the building and talk to the politicians present upon their arrival. That plan was not received well.

The atmosphere was still relaxed when the group started walking towards the Government Administration Building. Near the parliament building, someone ignited firework near the entrance of the building. The outrages participants in the manifestation pointed to a man in a blue-white shirt saying that he did not belong to the group. Near the entrance of the Government Administration Building, the same man was present. He denied emphatically that he had ignited the firework. He entered the building and the police made no effort to stop him.

From that moment on the atmosphere became hostile. The protesters disagreed with the way the police had erected barricades and moved them out of the way. The police reacted by pulling out their batons. People started throwing water bottles and other objects. An elderly lady was hit on her head and suffered injuries.

The situation went further out of control when suddenly Prime Minister Eman appeared in the company of several other ministers. Eman walked towards the protesters but when they wanted to grab him, he disappeared inside again as fast as he had come out. Next the riot unit appeared on the scene.

A little bit later Eman came outside again with his delegation and he engaged in conversation with Bernabela and members of the Group of Seven, The latter demands that the government recalls the announced increase of electricity tariffs. The exchange ended with loud shouting and the throwing of bottles. Opposition party MEP has scheduled another manifestation for October 1.


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