The Malta Independent 17 June 2024, Monday
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Updated: Moviment graffitti activist forcibly removed by police from Mosta square released

Semira Abbas Shalan Tuesday, 14 November 2023, 15:59 Last update: about 8 months ago

One of the Moviment Graffitti activists in Mosta square, Andre Callus, was forcibly removed by the police on Tuesday afternoon, but was soon after released.

The activists are blocking workers from removing 50-year-old Ficus trees which were 'butchered' on Monday as part of a 'landscaping plan' which has the unanimous blessing of the locality's local council. Callus was seen being put in handcuffs and forcibly handled after trying to move a fence that was placed around the trees. Police officers grabbed him and then, while he was on the ground, he was handcuffed. Officers then lifted him up and he was taken away from the site.

Other activists could be heard saying: "Arrest criminals not us."

"They are trying to install a fence so that we will not be able to continue with our direct action," Moviment Graffitti said on Facebook.

Opposition Leader Bernard Grech commented on Facebook about the situation. He said that we "unreservedly condemn the Police Commissioner's orders for those protesting in Mosta to be arrested. Nobody should be arrested for speaking out. So those who protest against the chopping of trees is arrested, and those who stole millions of euro are still outside, with the Commissioner not even wanting to do his duty and investigate. It would be better for the Police Commissioner to wake up from his sleep and do his job on what was said by the Court of Appeal. Malta deserves much better."

EU Parliament President Roberta Metsola also commented. "The government's fight against trees has now taken a harsher stance than ever before," she said. "Under the Prime Minister's leadership, those who were peacefully protesting in Mosta ended up being dragged to stop them from speaking up. This is not the Malta we want to see. Now they will try and change the discourse and blame the police, but we also know that this is only a maneuver by those whit their backs against the wall."

In a separate statement about the incident, independent candidate Arnold Cassola said that  "It is shameful that the Police Commissioner has ordered his subordinates to arrest, handcuff and drag away Graffitti activists, who were doing their duty to the country by defending one of the few green spaces left in Mosta. Under the leadership of this political bootlicker, the country has reached the deepest of pits."

"We have to go back to the eighties, to Commissioner Pullicino's times, to witness a Police Commissioner who arrests passifist activists defending their country," he said.

"This joke of a Commissioner has to be stripped of the power he wields illegitimately against the people and in favour of his political masters."

Soon after being removed from the site, Callus returned to join the other activists. Speaking with The Malta Independent when he returned, Callus said that activists had been here from Tuesday morning trying to stop the removal of the trees. "I'm also from Mosta," he said, adding that it is an emotional issue for him.

"At some point in the afternoon, they started installing a fence around the site. People from Mosta know that works have been ongoing for months with trenches and open holes, with people falling over them, and they never installed a fence. But today they did, pretending they were doing it for safety reasons. Obviously the fence is here so that we will stop the action we are carrying out as they would close us outside."

He said that when he arrived in the afternoon, he tried to move the fence "and I suddenly found myself on the ground and they dragged me to the police station." He said that after some time they let him go. He also told this newsroom that when he asked the police if he was under arrest, he was told he wasn't. Callus said that there is no basis as to why they would arrest him because everything is being done peacefully.

The removal of the trees was a personal initiative by the mayor, he said, adding that the Environment and Resources Authority issued permission for "trees protected by law to be removed without any justification. We will continue with our action."

He said that at 6.30pm on Wednesday a protest will be held outside the Mosta local council. "We call on local councillors to recognise the mistake they made, understand the anger of the Mosta residents who are feeling betrayed by their local councillors. They are still in time to reverse the mistake. While tree branches were cut, the trees are still here. If they replenish the soil, the trees will grow branches back. They are in time, but they have to remove the arrogance and understand that the Mosta residents are truly angry and disappointed."

Activists were seen pitching tents, and intend to continue carrying out their action throughout the night.

NGO Repubblika later condemned the action by the police.

"It is shameful that the police leadership find the time and means to take steps against those who are expressing their views to protect the common good while turning their head the other way in the face of corruption and abuse by the powerful," Repubblika said.

"We consider the use of strength by those who are small and silence before those who are powerful as the action of bullies. Our country deserves police that act against big criminals who wear jackets and ties, instead of chasing after the small."



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