Under normal circumstances, Gambian activists should expect to be granted a police permit to stage a solidarity demonstration on June 8th against the murder in the United States of African-American George Floyd.Since change came to Gambia in December 2016, the police have issued several protest permits to activists bent on venting their frustration on matters of public concern.
However, this time activists may be running their luck too far with fears over the spread of the coronavirus still too fresh to be tossed aside to make way for their mass action, says a retired security official who prefers anonymity.
He believes that if group worship remains banned and imams arrested for flouting such a regulation, demonstrators may not get the all-clear to hold their protests in front of the US embassy in Banjul as they wish on Monday June 8.
Floyd’s death had caused sparked riotous scenes in the US where several facilities linked to the police were put to the torch.
Gambians feel particularly aggrieved after reports confirmed the death in an apparent shootout with the US police of Momodou Lamin Sesay, the son of a former diplomat to the United Nations.
Stringent measures in place prohibiting mass gathering may just pour cold water on the activists’ bid to join the rest of the world in demonstrating against what many saw as the “racist slaughter” of an unarmed, non-threatening black man by a white police officer in the US.
Footage of the officer pressing his knee on Floyd’s neck as he lay helpless on the ground had sparked fury around the world not least in Africa.
Demonstrations amidst the Covid-19 pandemic are not what health authorities in The Gambia would encourage given the propensity for person-to-person contaminations and the implications for the country’s weak medical sector.
They converge with similar fears elsewhere in the world that such solidarity marches for Floyd would spark off a new chain of coronavirus infections which could prolong and complicate the fight against the pandemic.
In a bid to assuage these fears, leaders of the planned demonstration in Banjul say they will observe physical distancing rules while kneeling on one leg in tribute to Floyd and Sesay.
The Gambia has 25 cases of the coronavirus which caused one fatality since the first infection was detected in the country in March.