Sri Lankan ire on Independence Day in London

[TamilNet, Tuesday, 08 February 2011, 05:03 GMT]
When a group of Tamil expatriates began protesting outside the Sri Lankan High Commission in London on Friday Feb 4 (Sri Lanka’s Independence Day), officials inside made a false call to the police claiming the building was under attack, British police sources said Monday. A police squad rushed to the site, but found peaceful demonstrators chanting slogans and carrying placards and Tamil Eelam flags. Embassy officials later remonstrated on the street with police as well as shouting abuse at the protestors and taking photographs of them, protest leaders said.

UK protest

UK protest
Tamil protest begins Friday 11:30 a.m.
UK protest
Diplomatic Police Group responds to embassy’s emergency call
UK protest
Senior police officer talks to protestors
UK protest
DPG departs
UK protest
Protest proceeds
UK protest
Then embassy officials appear on balcony to photograph protestors
UK protest
Embassy official gestures at protestors
Shortly after the demonstration began outside the High Commission, a squad from the Diplomatic Protection Group hurriedly arrived with motorcycles escorting their two characteristic red-liveried vehicles

The squad commander entered the building to speak to embassy officials and thereafter spoke to the demonstrators, a protest organiser said.

Police sources told Tamil contacts Monday the DPG was responding to an emergency call by the High Commission that the building was being attacked.

After a radio conversation with his superiors, the commander left with the squad, having advised the demonstrators to stay within an enclosure set up 30 yards opposite and across from the embassy entrance.

A small group of regular police officers remained behind as the protest continued.

Shortly thereafter two embassy officials came out and stood directly opposite the demonstrators, taking photographs of them. Later other officials came out on the building’s balcony also taking pictures and gesturing.

“They kept coming out from time to time to take pictures us, implying dire consequences,” the protest organiser said.

“Seeing as that’s how the deal with protests in Sri Lanka, we were not surprised. We took pictures of them taking pictures of us.”

The demonstrators responded to the intimidation by chanting louder, including the slogans “Sri Lanka government - terrorists, terrorists!” and “Rajapaksa – war criminal!”

Later, several enraged embassy officials spilled out of the building, remonstrating with the police who positioned themselves between the two groups.

“They were furious and were screaming at the police that we were terrorists,” a protestor said.

“There were as many embassy people on the street as protestors.”

With the two groups just a few feet apart, some embassy officials provocatively advanced to take pictures of the demonstrators, who in turn took pictures of them.

“Just see what happens when you come to Sri Lanka,” one official said, jabbing at the protestors.

The police brought the situation under control and ushered the embassy officials back towards the building’s porch.

As the two groups faced each other from afar, one demonstrator tore the Sri Lanka’s flag. Others stamped on and set fire to the pieces.

The embassy officials later withdrew into the building, and the protest proceeded uneventfully.

At 2.30pm another senior police officer inspected the site and spoke to demonstrators.

“He asked if we were part of the Tamil protests were going on in other parts of London,” a protest organiser said. A protest scheduled by the JVP did not take place.

The demonstration opposite the High Commission concluded at 3pm. When the protestors left, so did the small group of police who had remained behind after the embassy officials went back inside.

UK protest
Embassy officials near and photograph protestors
UK protest
Later, embassy officials spill onto street, remonstrating with police
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More photographs are taken
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Police move officials back to embassy porch
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UK protest
Situation calms
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Protest continues, concludes at 3:00 p.m.



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