THE police held Islamic Front head Umar Abdullah on Thursday morning for allegedly participating in an unauthorised march at the Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain, to protest against covid19 vaccinations.
By 1.45 pm, Newsday was able to contact Abdullah, who said he had just been released from police custody, was "getting his bearings" and would talk to a reporter soon.
Earlier Newsday had seen about a dozen people in a group near the Botanical Gardens stopped by the police. None was carrying protest placards, but several wore hazmat suits.
Acting Supt Sampooran Kissoonlal of the Port of Spain Division, who was on the scene, spoke to Newsday.
"They had no police permission," he explained. "We are just monitoring.
"They advertised a protest walk. They have no permission to do it. That's why Mr Abdullah was taken off the protest walk.
"While we are monitoring, if they don't adhere to the covid regulations we are going to have to make sure and charge those who are responsible. It is irresponsible behaviour.
"Let's put fact to the situation. We are not here to stop anybody saying, 'I don't want to wear the mask,' but what I'm saying is that is the law that exists now, and we have to apply it."
Kissoonlal said there might be other ways for people to get their message out.
"We are just asking people to conform with the law, so that everybody is safe at the end of the day."
Newsday asked about Abdullah's fate.
"The police took him off the streets. He had no permission to authorise people to protest today."
On what would happen to him next, Kissoonlal said, "Well, we'll have a conversation and depending on the evidence and thing, we'll see how it works. We'll deal with it...we have to make sure there is that amount of safety, security and conformity to the laws of the land. We didn't make the laws, but we have to enforce it, right? And we have to abide by it. I'm just here to make sure everybody is safe and everything goes well."
Newsday tried to interview some of the alleged protesters but those approached were reluctant to talk.
One man in Islamic wear, around whom attention focused after Abdullah's detention, seemed more intent on an encounter with the police rather than talking to the media.
Minutes later police told Newsday that one Nadeem Mohammed had been given a ticket for not wearing a mask, in breach of covid19 regulations.
Two women in hazmat suits who seemed to be associated with the group told Newsday they were only there to exercise. However, when questioned, they each spoke passionately and at length about their opposition to vaccinations and said that instead they had put their faith in Jesus Christ.
The Facebook page of the local anti-vaccination group the First Wave Movement said: "Update: Brother Umar Abdullah was arrested by police for no apparent reason this morning at Queen's Park Savannah. Media personalities are making false statements about a protest action, when in fact Brother Umar's intention was to walk around the Savannah and pray for Trinidad and Tobago and the current situation."