Tamils bring their fight to Westminster

Demonstrators take over Parliament Square to highlight war in Sri Lanka

Tamil activists vowed to spend a second night on the streets of London last night after hundreds of demonstrators converged on Parliament to protest at the worsening conflict in Sri Lanka.

Police have struggled to contain the crowds who managed to blockade Westminster Bridge on Monday night and were yesterday camped out on Parliament Square.

The unauthorised protests began on Monday afternoon. The demonstration caused widespread traffic disruption and led to at least five arrests. The authorities appear to have been caught off guard by the protests which were organised by Tamil students texting each other. The protests drew more than 3,000 people on Monday night as demonstrators blocked Westminster Bridge, while some threatened to throw themselves into the Thames below. Four lifeboats were scrambled in response and at least two people did jump into the water. Both were taken to hospital.

Early yesterday morning police forcefully moved the protesters off the bridge and the numbers in Parliament Square appeared to be dwindling. But by the late afternoon the crowds had swollen once again, with as many as 1,000 people thronging the area.

Police "snatch squads", armed with truncheons, caused anger in the broadly peaceful crowd yesterday morning as they repeatedly waded in to remove flags supporting the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). It is listed as a terrorist group in Britain but many Sri Lankan Tamils venerate it and regard members as freedom fighters.

Tamil Tiger units are battling the Sri Lankan army, which has won a series of victories over them in the past six months. Tamil activists and human rights groups have accused the Sri Lankan government of committing numerous human rights abuses as they push to take remaining Tamil strongholds. The Sri Lankan government has banned journalists from entering the war zone but the UN estimates there are 155,000 civilians caught up in the fighting.

Last night the Metropolitan Police warned it may have to make a "huge number of arrests" to disperse crowds and said they were confiscating flags which represented a proscribed group under the Terrorism Act 2000. But many of the activists condemned the tactics, saying they were needlessly provocative and risked turning a peaceful crowd into a violent and angry one.

Mathavi Uthayanan, a 26-year-old medical student, said: "These are not LTTE flags - they are our national flags. To Tamils around the world they represent our suffering and our national struggle. We are not supporters of terrorists but we are treated like terrorists simply because we dare to say that there is genocide in our homeland or raise a flag in Parliament Square."

Iven Sinnappu, a 49-year-old businessman from Harrow, said he left Sri Lanka in the late 1970s after a friend was killed by the Sri Lankan army.

"The world completely ignores what is happening to the Tamil people," he said. "Well, now we want to make sure people cannot forget about us. We will stay here for as long as it takes. The killing of Tamils has to stop."

Earlier this year a young Tamil from London committed suicide by setting himself on fire in Geneva in protest at UN inaction over the conflict.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £38,000

£16000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued expansion, an ...

Ashdown Group: Senior .Net Developer - Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey

£65000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A long-established, tech...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Software Development Project Manager - Kingston Upon Thames

£55000 - £60000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Experienced Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders