Black Lives Matter: Ghana protest leader arrested

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
More than 60 people gathered for the vigil in Ghana's capital, Accra

Police in Ghana fired warning shots to break up a rally against police brutality after arresting the organiser.

Ernesto Yeboah was charged with failing to obtain a police permit for the protest on Saturday and for breaking the rules on public gatherings.

But his lawyer Francis-Xavier Sosu said the charges were "baseless".

More than 60 people attended the vigil in Accra, one of a wave of Black Lives Matter rallies across the world.

Demonstrators in dozens of countries are demanding an end to systemic racism and state-sponsored violence against black people following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man who was killed in broad daylight by police last month in the US city of Minneapolis.

At Saturday's rally in Ghana's capital, Accra, the protesters were also highlighting police brutality in the West African country.

They chanted: "We are not free until we are all free."

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People in the crowd held signs saying "Africa Must Unite", "Black Lives Matter", "Police Brutality = Colonial Violence", and "Justice for George".

They also honoured Ahmaud Arbery - an African-American man who was shot dead at point-blank range while jogging in his neighbourhood earlier this year, and the Taadi girls - three Ghanaian children who were abducted in 2018 and later declared dead by police but whose parents are demanding an independent investigation.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
This protester held placards highlighting injustices in the US and in Ghana
Image source, AFP
Image caption,
"Police Brutality = Colonial Violence", read another sign

A joint police and military team forcibly dispersed the crowds on Saturday, then arrested Mr Yeboah.

When his fellow protesters demanded his release, police fired warning shots.

According to Mr Yeboah's lawyer, the protest leader did not break the law because police were notified in advance.

The BBC's Thomas Naadi in Accra says public gatherings of fewer than 100 people are allowed in Ghana.

Only 67 people attended the rally on Sunday.

Our correspondent also reports that police are required by law to secure a court injunction if they plan to stop or break up such a gathering, but are not permitted to use force to do so.

Mr Yeboah leads the civil liberties pressure group Economic Fighters League (EFL). His campaigning last year led to Ghana's parliament dropping plans to build a new parliamentary chamber, which had been branded a waste of public resources.

The EFL says some 20 people died in Ghana from police brutality in 2018.

Ten people have been jailed in the country for protesting since coronavirus lockdown restrictions began at the end of March.