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Parliament Square protest ends after 73 days

A 73-day protest involving thousands of people demonstrating over the plight of Tamils ended on Wednesday, June 17.

 

The protest featured hunger strikes, mass sit-ins blocking central London roads and people throwing themselves into the River Thames, reported the BBC

 

One of those involved, Ambi Seevaratnam said: "After 73 days, nothing has worked. The Tamils have been betrayed by the international community."

 

Participants had put up several tents in the centre of

Parliament Square
. The number of protesters varied over the 73 days from a handful to more than 15,000 as events in Sri Lanka drew varying numbers to the square. Surges in activity followed developments in Sri Lanka.

 

About 200,000 demonstrators joined a march and rally organised in early April and 100,000 again turned up for the march the Saturday following the end of the protest. The march on 20 June was organised by the British Tamils Forum.

 

The UN believes that nearly 7,000 civilians may have been killed and another 13,000 injured in the war since January, while other reports put the number killed in 2009 alone between 20,000 and 50,000. More than 300,000 people have been displaced from their homes in the north.

 

Suren Surendiran, of the British Tamil Forum, said: "I am pleased with how the protest has gone. It was an opportunity to make the British public aware of our concerns and despair.

 

"Previously people thought of Sri Lanka as a holiday destination or a place for cricket. Now they are aware of some criminal activities, including state-sponsored terrorism.

 

"Whether people take sides or are aware of the details, I don't know. But they are aware something is happening there."

 

Protesters have at times clashed with police in

Parliament Square
.

 

Last month, a senior Metropolitan Police officer warned the long protest was diverting resources from other areas. Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson said if it continued it would have a "long term" impact on crime. Police in London chose not to use force to clear the protesters, but maintained a 24-hour presence, with the cost of the operation exceeding £10m.

 

Sivendran Nadarajah, 20, from Mitcham in south London, told BBC Asian Network he thought the protests had been "worth it" because they had brought the truth about Sri Lanka to the fore.

 

He said protesters were sorry for the inconvenience caused when they blocked roads with the protest.

 

"We only did it for attention. We did a lot of protests calmly, peacefully, where thousands of people turned up. We couldn't get our message across. But when we blocked the road... I'm 100% sure people understand it was because of a crisis in Sri Lanka."

 

Ambi Seevaratnam, who was involved in talks between student organisers and police, said many people remained extremely angry about the fighting in the country.

 

She said students had decided to continue to put pressure on politicians and the media.

 

"To achieve this it is not enough to stand in

Parliament Square
and scream," she said.

 

"After 73 days, nothing has worked. We feel the Tamils have been betrayed by the international community."

 

A statement by a UK Tamil students group said on Wednesday a pledge would be made as the protest ended "to continue the struggle for self determination by other means".