Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Tamil Protest in London

I spent much of yesterday afternoon and this morning watching the Tamils protesting outside the Houses of Parliament.

Yesterday, I sat and watched as thousands of people gathered between Parliament Square and Westminster Bridge to protest against UK and international inaction of the situation in the Tamil parts of Sri Lanka where hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced and thousands of innocent people killed in fighting in recent months according to the UN.

The mood of the protest was peaceful but showed their frustration with the international community, many waving Tamil Tigers flags or with slogans about the possible genocide taking place in north-east Sri Lanka.

I came to work this morning after hearing that the protests had been going on all night and that there were concerns that some of the protestors might jump into the Thames.

It was just as I arrived at Westminster Bridge this morning that the police came in to break up the protest, which had closed down the Bridge and Victoria Embankment overnight.

It was a painfully sad sight to watch families being broken up and peaceful protestors being dragged along the street and I spent around half an hour watching the police as they forced the protestors back along the street to Parliament Square, trying to comfort women and children who had lost their husbands or brothers in the crowd and helping those who had been injured (which seemed mercifully few) to get medical attention nearby.

As an internationalist party, we have been in regular contact with members of Tamil groups in the UK over the last few months, keeping me and the party up-to-date with what news is coming out from Sri Lanka, but today I just felt so horribly powerless as people gave me first hand testimony of how they'd lost contact with their families back home and begging me to help.

It was a humbling experience and a reminder of the role and responsibilities that the international community have to groups around the world - and the international community must act as one to prevent deaths of innocent people in Sri Lanka and to bring an end to the armed struggle there.

UPDATE: I've added some photos to my Facebook account for anyone interested.

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