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
A poster by Durham Constabulary
Arts and Entertainment
books New York Times slammed over summer reading list
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine