Reporters on the Job
• Tear Gas in Liberia: On Friday, correspondent Lane Hartill had just returned to Liberia's capital after a trip to the Ivory Coast. He was at presidential contender George Weah's campaign headquarters when Weah told his supporters to remain calm in the face of alleged fraud. But they had other ideas.
The youthful crowd started marching toward the US Embassy. "I followed in a taxi, but the march disrupted traffic. I got out and marched with them for a while," says Lane.
After the Ivory Coast, where crowds were sometimes hostile toward Lane as a foreigner, he says it was nice to be able to mingle with the protesters and feel relatively safe. "Even the Liberian riot police were quite friendly. The protesters were loud and animated, but nobody was hostile," he says.
That's why he was surprised when the violence started. "At the time, I was behind the Liberian riot police. The Jordanian peacekeepers were about 50 yards away and blocking the crowd from going to the embassy. It's hard to say who started it," he says. "People were suddenly running. The Jordanian peacekeepers seemed too rough, beating people with clubs and firing tear gas as people were trying to run away. Then the youth started throwing rocks.
"I ducked behind a concrete-filled barrel but managed to get hit in the foot. Later a Jordanian commander, who spoke only a little English, told me the crowd had tried to push through their line. That's when they responded. It was a lesson in how explosive demonstrators and 'peacekeepers' can be."
David Clark Scott