Westminster Bridge closed by Tamil protest against Sri Lanka's war

By staff writers
April 7, 2009

Three thousand Tamil protesters temporarily forced the closure of London's Westminster Bridge this morning, demanding that the UK government should act to end the brutal war in Sri Lanka.

Technically the demonstration is illegal because it has apparently not followed procedure and restrictions on protests near parliament - which civil rights campaigners have condemned as a violation of democratic principles.

However, Ekklesia has been told that the Tamil demonstration has been peaceful and the policing of it non-confrontational, at least in the early stages. By 1.40am there had been no arrests.

The BBC reports that eight rescue boats were called as some of the protestors were threatening that demonstrators would jump en-masse into the Thames if they could not speak to Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The United Nations says that 150,000 people are trapped in Sri Lanka's northern war zone and Tamils claim human rights abuses. But the government has rejected calls for a ceasefire with the Tamil Tiger rebel group, which wants independence.

Suren Surendiran, of the British Tamils Forum, said the London protest was being led by students, but that people of all ages from across the UK were joining in.

"These are people who have relatives and friends in Sri Lanka; people who have lost brothers and fathers and sisters," he declared.

"As British citizens, they want the UK government to act. Rather than just calling for a ceasefire, they should go to the UN security council to demand one."

Demonstrators occupied the bridge throughout Monday afternoon and evening, many carrying banners reading "Stop Sri Lanka's Genocide of Tamils", chanting and banging drums.

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