Activists from civil society group Moviment Graffiti blocked the side entrance to the Office of the Prime Minister in Valletta banging drums and chanting “criminals” and “justice” while demanding the immediate resignation of Joseph Muscat.
In a sit-in at the Castille’s entrance, the activists said: “We are not here because we enjoy sitting down and freezing our arses. We are here because truth and justice are worth fighting for. There is now absolutely no doubt that Joseph Muscat must leave now,” an activist said, as the rest joined in chanting “justice”.
The activists said they would remain there as long as necessary and called on citizens to join them in reclaiming back Castille for the people.”Bring your instruments and your voices.”
Army personnel joined members of the police surrounding the activists as their chants of “assassins” became louder. OPM staff could be seen looking on from behind barriers.
“It’s important to say that all this dirt on our politicians is emerging because they chose to kill a journalist. Those in power chose to defend those around them, they chose to hide their abuse and crimes, they chose to treat people like fools,” the activists said.
The action follows a protest held at Castille Square yesterday organised by Repubblika and Occupy Justice in which thousands filled the square making the same demand. The crowd walked from the Parliament building to Merchants Street where speakers addressed the crowd in front of the Prime Minister’s Office in what followed two weeks of almost daily protests demanding resignations.
The protest united newsrooms and civil society organisations endorsing the demand for the immediate resignation of Muscat as he conducted a ‘farewell tour’ around Malta’s villages. Muscat announced his resignation, but decided he would leave in January in defiance of people’s demands.
“There are people living in garages while there are those who stole €5,000 a day from the people. Shame on you! You keep hiding in the shadows. We are fighting for the truth. We don’t need to kill a journalist. We have nothing to hide,” the group said.
They referred to Daphne Caruana Galizia’s work, saying “she was right” as they demanded justice and repeating calls of “shame on you”. Their calls mark a significant development among a group who, until recently, had resisted such calls with some even writing op-eds criticising the journalist and those calling for justice.
They stressed this was not a partisan protest, but about cleaning up the dirt in government. “We are not here because someone sent us. We left our work, our families and some of us were here almost every day. Who is supposed to be representing us? Who will do his duty before the people?”
The group thanked journalists who shed light on the filth in government. “None of this would have come to light without those journalists who exposed it. We call on all of you in here to do what you can to help reveal the truth,” they said to those in Castille.
They stressed the rule of law had collapsed in the country. “The country needs a clean-up from top to bottom. There can be no justice in a country where these people can unite to kill not only a journalist, but a wife and a mother. Shame on you. Unacceptable. How dare you say the institutions are working? Everyone is scared of you. That is the truth. And that’s why we will keep coming until you leave.”
Members of the media were thrown out of Castille, while the doors to Castille were closed with the activists inside. While the media is shut out, you can follow Moviment Graffiti’s live feed here.
Citizens and members of the Caruana Galizia family have gathered outside the Prime Minister’s Office demanding to get in to join the protestors. “This is not a private space. This is public property,” Corinne Vella, sister of the assassinated journalist, as she banged on the doors of Castille to get in.
“We are with you,” people shouted to the activists inside banging drums and chanting in response, reminding police officers they had no right to prevent them from entering. “Open the doors,” people screamed.
Vella confronted police about their decision to remove journalists. They denied having done so, a statement which was immediately contradicted by surrounding journalists who had just been forced out.
#Malta: @MaltaGov has now locked protesters inside state buildings, away from journalists in violation of Malta obligations to protect protest & expression. @vonderleyen @VeraJourova @davidakaye @Dunja_Mijatovic @OSCE_RFoM must take note. https://t.co/pngUqUKhMM
— Sarah Clarke (@Sarah_M_Clarke) December 9, 2019
Sarah Clarke, Head of Europe and Central Asia for Article19, wrote on Twitter: “Malta government has now locked protestors inside State buildings, away from journalists, in violation of Malta’s obligations to protest and expression”.
She called on Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression David Kaye, and OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Desir to take note.
As activists emerged from the building, the Labour Party’s online secret hate groups started targeting individual activists, primarily Caruana Galizia’s sister. In one of the groups called ‘Laburisti sal-Mewt‘ (Labour until death), photos of Vella outside Castille’s doors while activists were blocked inside were posted to open family members of the assassinated journalist and activists to ridicule. Some photos of Vella portrayed her as a witch, just as the same groups had done to her sister.
While the State broadcaster ignored the protests, the Labour Party’s channels blamed the activists for a soldier claiming to have hurt his shoulder. It is unclear how the report could have been based on any factual evidence while journalists were blocked out of the building.
An activist said on record that he was assaulted by a member of the Armed Forces.