Over the weekend, police arrested at least eight people for violating the 24-hour-a-day curfew enacted Friday, including a pastor who said he had permission to preach at his church and was detained because of a misunderstanding.
The announcement of the curfew on March 25 — only two days before it took effect — sent residents scrambling to prepare, and long queues formed in front of supermarkets and banks last Thursday and Friday.
On Friday morning, police issued a press release announcing the arrest of someone who had violated the nighttime curfew that was already in effect at the time. And on Sunday evening, Governor Gus Jaspert announced that eight people had been arrested over the weekend for curfew infractions.
Bishop John Cline of New Life Baptist Church said in a Facebook video this week that he was arrested because of a “misunderstanding” between himself, police, and Health and Social Development Minister Carvin Malone.
According to Mr. Cline, after applying for 20 curfew passes from Mr. Malone, which the minister denied, the bishop then applied for passes so that he and three other church officials could stream their Sunday service online.
Mr. Malone granted these passes, but after the service the bishop was notified that there were police officers outside the church, Mr. Cline said.
He went outside to speak to the officers and assured them that he had received permission from the minister for him and three other people to be there, eventually calling Mr. Malone to speak to one of the officers, Mr. Cline said.
The officer then passed the call along to Police Commissioner Michael Matthews, who explained that the minister did not have the authority to grant people permission to attend the worship service, Mr. Cline said.
Despite the correspondence between Mr. Malone and Mr. Matthews, and despite Mr. Cline showing the officers messages with Mr. Malone where he applied for and received approval for the curfew passes, he was technically arrested on orders from Mr. Matthews, the bishop said.
“The police was very understanding, very courteous,” Mr. Cline said, adding that they did not use handcuffs.
After arriving at the police station, Mr. Cline sat with a police inspector while Mr. Malone and Mr. Matthews continued to talk, he said. Eventually, Mr. Cline was told that his arrest had been a misunderstanding, and he was free to go, he said.
After laying out his version of events, Mr. Cline arrived at what he considered the most important part of the whole ordeal:
“The word of God was preached,” he said. Mr. Malone did not respond to requests for comment, nor did Adrianna Soverall, a communications officer in the Ministry of Health and Social Development.
Police did not issue press releases about the eight arrests noted by Mr. Jaspert, but on Monday Police Information Officer Akia Thomas provided numbers that contradicted the figure provided by Mr. Jaspert Sunday and echoed by Premier Andrew Fahie on Tuesday.
According to Ms. Thomas, between Friday and Monday five people were arrested for breaking the curfew while there were 14 “reported offences” for the crime.
Ms. Thomas declined to explain the distinction between arrests and “reported offences,” and also could not account for the discrepancy between her figures and those provided by the governor.
To ensure that residents would obey the temporary restrictions, officials issued numerous advance warnings that they would prosecute anyone who broke the rules.