Sonnie James will never forget about January 4, 2017. On this tragic day, she bled profusely with blood running down her right eye as a result of police brutality. I had an opportunity to have met Sonnie on January 12, 2017 and I became appalled by her worsening condition especially after being abandoned by those who inflicted such casualty on her.
Sonnie, a vendor of sandwich bread, said to me in a pathetic tone when I first met her “I have no one to fight my case. They really hurt me for no reason. I am going blind and they are doing nothing about it.” Momentarily, I felt Sonnie’s pain and was provoked to act in her interest in order to ensure that justice prevails.
After a day, I had to quickly raise up to US$700 for Sonnie’s initial medication and livelihood. We remain grateful to Madam Matilda W. Parker, Mr. Jerry W. Wion, Sis. Florence Aiken and Abdullah Swaray who initially intervened to help rescue Sonnie from going blind.
For a period of 1 month, Sonnie was treated at the New Eye Sight Center in Paynesville by two of Liberia’s best Ophthalmologists, Dr. Catherine Bestman and Dr. Robert Dolo. Sonnie was diagnosed of traumatic Uveitis and poor visual acuity as a result of a hole in her macula. And the doctors said she would had gone blind if prompt action was not taken.
During the course of her medication, I began to raise alarm about her condition by appearing on 3 different radio talk-shows and penning an Open Letter to Inspector General Gregory Coleman. The letter was widely published by local newspapers. I remain ever grateful to the media (print and electronic) for always standing with us in defense of humanity.
In less than a day, Col. Coleman called me for a brief conference. We had a fruitful discussion and Col. Coleman agreed for LNP to finally take full responsibility of Sonnie’s situation. Since our meeting, Sonnie was transferred to the JFK Referral Hospital Eye Center for advanced medication under Dr. Edward B. Guzzie.
For 4 months, Sonnie went through intensive medical care at this health facility on account of LNP. We appreciate Col. Gregory Coleman for his intervention in this matter. Surely, LNP is gradually transforming into a civilian-friendly force under IG Coleman with discipline and professionalism being its fundamental hallmarks.
Today, I am happy that Sonnie can tell me that she has recovered and can now clearly see with her right eye. Ensuring that Sonnie doesn’t go blind was of primary concern to me. Glory to God for restoring her sight and releasing full healing upon her.
Besides Sonnie recovering, she has received a package of L$236,000.00 (US$2,000.00) to restart her business. Initially, Sonnie ran a business (selling sandwich bread around Monrovia) costing less than L$10,000. Today, she is glad to receive L$236,000.00. Sonnie, age 26, has vowed to do a business far bigger and profiteering than what she was doing before her misfortune.
Sonnie said upon receiving her cheque “I cannot say how much I appreciate you, brother Martin. You made this to happen. I hope Liberia had more youth activists like Martin Kollie. You promised to stand up for me and you did. I appreciate everyone who stood by me. I am grateful to Police Director Gregory Coleman and his deputies for stepping in. Thank God I am OK now.”
Additionally, the perpetrator of said brutality against Sonnie James has been identified as a PSU officer and he is undergoing thorough investigation by the Professional Standard Division of the Liberia National Police.
On behalf of Sonnie, I appreciate everyone for supporting this genuine cause. The timely effort of Tetee Gebro of UNMIL radio and Mae Azango of FrontPage Africa can never be forgotten. Gratitude to Heritage Newspaper, Bush Chicken, Daily Observer, Insight Newspaper, Inquirer Newspaper, The Analyst, New Democrat, New Newspaper, Capitol Times, GNN Liberia, Nation Times, People Newspaper, Women Voices Newspaper, In Profile Daily, The New Dawn, Public Agenda The Catalyst Newspaper, Independent Newspaper, Corruption Watch, Truth FM/TV, Hott FM, OK FM, Capitol FM, Power FM/TV, The Costa Show, etc.
This is what persistency through collective and genuine advocacy does. We now have a common mission henceforth to put an end to police brutality because this inhumane act contravenes section 22.72 subsection a(i), section 22.90 subsection b(x), section 22.90 subsection b(vi) and section 22.72 subsection a(iv) of the 2015 National Police Act of Liberia.
Public safety through police-civilian relationship is irreversibly crucial. As a Liberian youth activist and a stalwart of SUP, I have an obligation to always stand up for the weak and marginalized class of our society. JUSTICE is blooming – EQUALITY is in sight – LIBERIA will rise!