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Tamil protest turned nasty after failed ransom bid'

PUBLISHED: 17:07 08 April 2009 | UPDATED: 11:05 12 August 2010

A POLICEMAN drafted in to tackle an overnight protest by Tamils in the capital said that trouble erupted when they realised they could not hold the Prime Minister to ransom. Inspector Kevin Nutter, 42, of Bromley s emergency response team, said that the

A POLICEMAN drafted in to tackle an overnight protest by Tamils in the capital said that trouble erupted when they realised they could not hold the Prime Minister to ransom.

Inspector Kevin Nutter, 42, of Bromley's emergency response team, said that the protest on Westminster Bridge against alleged human rights abuses in Sri Lanka initially had a "party atmosphere" when it started on Monday afternoon.

But when officers moved protestors from the sit in on Tuesday morning towards Parliament Square, to make way for rush hour traffic, scuffles ensued.

Cans and sticks were thrown at police and four lifeboats were scrambled after some protestors threatened to throw themselves into the river.

Two individuals were known to have jumped into the Thames and were taken to hospital and several people were arrested, according to Inspector Nutter.

He was drafted in when the numbers for the protest swelled from under 100 to 3,000 people at its height. He added: "There were no batons or anything like that, we just locked our arms together and encouraged them to move down to Parliament Square. Around that time one or two incidents escalated and someone jumped off the bridge.

"The primary goal from their overnight vigil is that they wanted to see Gordon Brown but as he didn't come their plan was to sit in overnight and close the bridge.

Their goal was to hold Gordon Brown to ransom.

"People are welcome to demonstrate but other people have rights to travel through London and commute to work."

The demonstration had not been registered with the Metropolitan Police under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 and was effectively illegal but according to Inspector Nutter, the majority of demonstrators were peaceful.

He said: "It was very peaceful for the majority of it, with almost a party atmosphere, it was quite relaxed with a mixed group of men, women and children.

"It was only when police were ordered to move demonstrators down to the grass area near Parliament Square that some people started causing trouble."

The protest caused disrupted traffic stretching out to the Victoria Embankment and entry to Westminster tube station was suspended.

Reports claim that demonstrators carrying banners reading 'Stop Sri Lanka's Genocide of Tamils' chanted "shame on British police" as officers started breaking up the road blocks.

The Sri Lankan military announced last Sunday that they were close to wiping out the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) after decades of bitter fighting for an independent homeland.

The United Nations claim as many as 150,000 civilians may still be trapped in the war zone, although the Sri Lankan government insists the figure is less than half that.

It is believed more than 2,800 civilians may have been killed and 7,000 others injured in the fighting in the north-east in the last two months. The Sri Lankan government disputes these figures.

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