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NEWS : Local News  

In Sierra Leone, School Boys vs Boy Blues
By Abdul Karim Kabia
Nov 14, 2008, 17:27
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The King Tom area of Western Freetown was late in the afternoon of yesterday November 13th 2008, brought to a complete standstill as armed policemen (aka Boy Blues) traded physical blows openly with schoolboys of the St. Edwards Secondary School. Shops shut down and people fled to the safety of their houses as teargas and weapons were freely being used.

According to our investigations, the problem started when a St. Edwards schoolboy alleged to be a love rival of a police officer staying at King Tom, got himself arrested by this self-same police officer. A schoolteacher at the St. Edwards attempted to intervene and get the boy released but he was reported to instead suffer a good beating by the policeman who called in for reinforcement as other schoolchildren had gathered in support of the teacher and the schoolboy. According to several eye witnesses, upon their arrival, the police officers reportedly arrested the teacher for the offence of 'obstruction of justice' and placed him under detention at the Guard Room in the neighbouring Kingtom Barracks.

This reporter arrived at the scene at the heat of the fracas after the above reported incidents.

According to several schoolchildren who were interviewed by this reporter, despite their Principal and teachers asking for the release of the detained teacher, the police refused to release him.

The angry crowd of schoolchildren then made loud protests causing them to be chased off from the Police Barracks that adjourns the school. According to the families of police officers staying at the Barracks, whilst the schoolchildren were fleeing from the policemen giving them chase, they caused "serious damage" to properties belonging to the residents of the Barracks.

As a result, the wives, children and relatives of the police officers teamed up with their male relatives and stormed the neighbouring St. Edwards School compound with a mission to inflict similar damage on the compound.

The entire scene was at this point chaotic and armed anti-riot police officers arrived and fired tear gas into the vicinity. Journalists and news-men poured in to the scene including the BBCs Correspondent, Lansana Fofana.

When Awareness Times visited the compound late yesterday evening, the damage to the school especially the Junior Secondary School, was "incalculable". There was debris everywhere. The office of the principal was completely ransacked and the place looked like a war zone.

Up to press time, the students were planning to keep a Night-long vigil inside the compound as the police relatives had vowed to return in the night to "finish the job" they started that afternoon.

Irate students also told Awareness Times that they would be "regrouping" in the morning to "burn down" the Kingtom Barracks and "retaliate".

The students are alleging that it was the police who first "took the law into their own hands" by attacking the school compound with their wives, children and relatives. They showed Awareness Times the vehicle of a schoolteacher which was completely vandalized by the irate police relatives.

Additionally, Awareness Times saw several St. Edwards schoolchildren with bleeding cuts fleeing from King Tom. They allege that they were attacked with machetes by the police and their relatives. One of the boys was bleeding profusely from a large gash on his head.

The Police officers interviewed at the barracks and in the vicinity, told Awareness Times that they were taking no chances as it was a similar scenario that led to students burning down a Police Station in Tonkolili District a few years back.

"We are well fortified. If any schoolboy thinks he can just walk into our Barracks, damage our property and get away scot free, he is fooling himself. We will deal robustly with all of them involved," a police officer who stays at the Barracks told this press.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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