Activist assaulted while laying flowers for Daphne Caruana Galizia

An activist was assaulted while laying flowers and candles in front of the Great Siege Monument in the country’s capital in what has become a scene of almost daily tension as activists insist on their right to protest.

Activist group Repubblika uploaded a video of the incident in Valletta today, depicting a woman swearing at the activists until the phone falls to the ground.

The group said in a statement that the activists were threatened by a group of people while peacefully laying flowers and candles at the foot of the monument. A report has been filed at the Valletta police station.

Citizens have gathered at the site to protest peacefully and call for justice for assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia for over a year since she was killed in October 2017 in a car bomb a few metres away from her home.

The flowers and candles placed at the site have been cleared every time citizens have expressed their right to pay tribute to the journalist and call for justice following her assassination, until the government boarded up the monument last September ‘for emergency cleaning’.

The barriers were suddenly removed recently, but every time citizens approach the monument to lay candles and flowers they are harassed and insulted.

Last week, an elderly man who was filmed harassing the activists multiple times ended up in hospital after falling over while taking a swipe at one of the activists. He has since been discharged from hospital, according to media reports.

Repubblika said in a statement that attacks on peaceful protesters seem to have become the norm. The group questioned how flowers and candles could be considered an act of provocation while beatings, name calling and physical intimidation were justified.

“We condemn, without reservation, the violence, the beatings, the threats and the insults from those who cannot tolerate peaceful protest on an issue on which they disagree. This has now become a daily occurrence, coming from people who seem to have been sent to intimidate activists,” the group said.

The organisation drew attention to the fact that the the ongoing protest in front of the Great Siege Monument calling for justice with slain journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was in line with the law, as the police have repeatedly declared.

The government has the duty to protect freedom of expression, Repubblika said. Failure to protect that right is an exercise in suppression: “The right to protest should not be actively strangled by the government”.

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