What #OccupyJulorbiHouse means to me as a queer aroace in Ghana – Part 1

Illustrated by Mawena Ahento

Written by Remi

The first time I heard about the #OccupyJulorbiHouse protest was the night before the Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Day. I saw it on one of my close friend’s WhatsApp status. 

On Thursday morning, I checked my X timeline around 10 a.m. and decided to stalk my sister’s account, as usual. From there, I discovered the hashtag #OccupyJulorbiHouse and what was happening on the first day of the protest. My heart was full of fear when I discovered that even before some protesters could reach the demonstration ground, they were gathered by heavily armed police officers and put into buses to be sent to 7 different police stations in the Greater Accra region, with one of the main organizers sent to 1 station alone — the Railways Police Station. I got even more scared when I discovered that one of my friends was among the people arrested and could not be found since morning. 

The online protesters then organized themselves to seek the release of the arrested protesters. Young lawyers volunteered to provide legal assistance to the protesters. Funds were accumulated to provide food and water to them as well. However, the police brutality did not end there. More videos surfaced of the violence meted out to the arrested protesters and even journalists, lawyers, bystanders and family members of the arrested. A young boy on his way to a basketball court for a game was also profiled as a protester and sent to one of the stations to be stripped down to his boxers like the others and await a court hearing the next day. A journalist, Bridget Otoo, even had her shirt ripped off by a policeman in civilian clothes for seeking justice for the protesters who only wanted to exercise their fundamental rights and protest for a better Ghana. 

By this time, X users in Ghana began mentioning Ghanaian celebrities with huge platforms to amplify the hashtag for it to go across Ghana and beyond the borders of the nation. A post also surfaced of the president requesting (an outrageous amount of money as) reparations for Ghana, which everyone knew would be part of the multitude of national cake shared by the current government and their families alone. Online protesters quoted the tweets detailing the poor governance of the president and highlighting his misdeeds to the world. Countless international TV stations were also tagged in the posts and quotes, since the president dislikes international disgrace, in my opinion.

As this was going on, the full names of the arrested and their respective police stations, were being compiled and shared online for them to be found.

A number of celebrities aided the organizers by joining them at the various police stations, donating money and food to those behind bars (you can check out a Twitter thread made by @_deLaaaLi on all the artists who helped in the protests). Other celebrities posted tweets mocking the peaceful protest and others went around in circles, not even specifying the country they were referring to, or using the hashtag #OccupyJulorbiHouse. I admit, it’s not the job of celebrities to be advocates, but the current situation in Ghana is so dire that having all hands on deck is a necessity. 

More Ghanaians organized themselves to form the @occupyjulorbihouse Twitter account, a collective movement geared towards promoting #OccupyJulorbiHouse and addressing the issues affecting each and every Ghanaian. The collective movement reinforced inclusion, one of its principles, by creating eye-catching infographics about the protest and translating the texts in the infographics into various local dialects to reach Ghanaians over a wider sphere, and not just on the X app. This became necessary since the radio and tv stations were pretending as if the arrest of 56 protesters did not happen or happened due to “unlawful assembly’’, or was disrespectful due to the renaming of the Jubilee House to JulorBi House.

As a feminist and womanist organization, Adventures believes in the power of African women telling our own stories and is dedicated to documenting and preserving our unique perspectives. Part 2 of Remi’s recounting of their two day protest continues here.

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