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Tamil cricket protest draws support at Lords

[TamilNet, Monday, 4 July 2011 10:43 One Comment]

A day long protest on Sunday by scores of Tamil youth activists and supporters outside the Lord’s cricket ground where Sri Lanka played England in the third one-day-international drew support from spectators and the general public, including delegates attending the ordination of five new rabbis at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in front of which the noisy but peaceful demonstration took place. Inside the world famous cricket ground, a youth who raced across the pitch with a Tamil Eelam flag in the middle of the match drew cheers when he dodged the grasps of pursuing stewards, and a round of applause when he was finally caught in front of the MCC pavillion.

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A hundred Tamil youth activists and supporters participated in Sunday’s protest, the last of a series organised by the Tamil Youth Organisation (TYO-UK) outside Sri Lanka’s matches in Britain this year to raise awareness of Sri Lanka’s war crimes and call for a boycott of Sri Lankan cricket until the government in Colombo agrees to an international investigation of the atrocities.

The first demonstrators took up position at 10am inside the protective barriers set up by police opposite the Lord ground’s famous Grace gate, while others fanned out to all gates to hand out leaflets and chat to arriving spectators and passers by.

As protestors chanted slogans through megaphones and played drums, some passing car drivers blew their horns or gave thumbs-up signs, as did some arriving or departing spectators and passing pedestrians. In slow traffic, car occupants reached for the leaflets being handed out.

The noisy demonstration continued through the day until the match ended at 7pm and departing spectators poured out. Some waved at the demonstrators or crossed the road to speak to them, including several members of the MCC in their distinctive red and gold (‘egg and bacon’) ties and jackets.

Activists handed out eight thousand leaflets and several hundred people signed TYO’s ‘Boycott Sri Lanka Cricket’ postcards.

“Given the public’s response today, this is an excellent finale to our protest series,” TYO-UK spokesperson Thusiyan Nandakumar said.

“We have achieved our primary objective of this phase – to raise awareness amongst cricket fans, officials and reporters in this country about Sri Lanka’s war crimes and how a sports boycott might contribute to an independent international investigation.”

“Having protested at several of Sri Lanka’s matches, [today] we can clearly feel a different degree of support from people in Britain. We are especially pleased that MCC members are also beginning to pay attention to the Sri Lanka [issue].”

"With Sri Lanka’s tour of England drawing to a close, we intend to shift our campaign to calling on the England cricket team to boycott their planned tour of Sri Lanka," TYO member Mario Arulthas told reporters.

Support from the Synagogue

Sunday’s demonstration coincided with a ceremony inside the Liberal Jewish Synagogue (LJS), at which five new rabbis were being ordained. Despite the intruding noise, the 500 delegates from around the world were understanding of the Tamils’ protest, activists said.

“At synagogue officials’ request, we stopped using megaphones for a key period,” a TYO activist told TamilNet. “We understand the genocide of the Tamils was mentioned during the ceremony.”

At the end of the ceremony, Senior Rabbi Alexandra Wright (of LJS), Rabbi Danny Rich (Chief Executive of Liberal Judaism) and Rabbi David Mitchell came out to chat with demonstrators.

They expressed their strong sympathy for the Tamils’ cause and signed the TYO-UK’s ‘Boycott Sri Lanka Cricket’ postcards.

Quick Reminder

While the shouts of “Boycott Sri Lanka” and “We want – independent – investigations” could be heard inside ground all day, the issue also appeared in the middle of the ground itself during Sri Lanka’s sixth over (England batted first), when a protestor began racing across the pitch, waving a Tamil Eelam flag.

As nonplussed English batsmen and Sri Lankan fielders watched, Lord’s stewards chased after the athletic youth, to laughter from England supporters and fury from some Sri Lankan spectators.

“Although play was briefly disrupted, most people took it in good sprits,” a steward told TamilNet’s London correspondent. “There were cheers each time he eluded [the stewards] and he got applause when he was finally caught.”

Having run the length of the pitch, the youth was brought down directly in front of the Lord’s pavilion where hundreds of laughing MCC members were seated.

Not everyone was amused, however. In another section of the ground, Sinhala spectators screaming “shoot the terrorist, shoot the Tamil terrorist” turned on a Tamil spectator who objected, shouting at her also “are you a terrorist too?” They settled down when police arrived and warned them to behave, the steward said.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s acting High Commissioner P.M. Amza who was at the ground at the time immediately lodged a complain with the England Cricket Board showing his displeasure, The Island newspaper reported.

The detained protestor was handed over to police who arrested him. He was released with a caution after questioning, Tamil community sources in London told TamilNet Sunday night.

Outside the ground, unlike at the Oval match on Tuesday, whilst some drunken Sinhalese remonstrated with police that the ‘terrorist’ protest be stopped, there was only one incident of direct confrontation: two young female activists handing out leaflets were surrounded by several Sinhala youths who seized their leaflets, shouting “you’re terrorists!” and “Come back to Sri Lanka and see what’ll happen to you.”

[Full Coverage]

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One Comment »

  • Bawan said:

    What a stupid run across the ground
    go to hell man