BREAKING – Sri Lankan army storm Galle Face and forcibly remove protesters pic.twitter.com/xt3JsOKLZL
— Tamil Guardian (@TamilGuardian) July 21, 2022
Within hours of Sri Lanka’s new president being sworn in, troops have stormed the longstanding protest site at Galle Face in the capital in the early hours of the morning, destroying the settlement where less than a hundred protesters were camping.
The violent raid saw troops beating protesters, assaulting journalists destroying tents and arresting several people.
More than 50 people were reportedly injured
A BBC video journalist was beaten by the army and one soldier snatched his phone and deleted videos.
BBC journalist Anbarasan Ethirajan described how “hundreds of heavily armed soldiers and police commandos with riot gear descended from two directions, their faces covered”.
"We saw soldiers shouting, dismantling and destroying makeshift tents and other items on the pavement. Troops also moved into the president's office, which was stormed by huge crowds last week."
"When we were returning from the area, a man in civilian clothes, surrounded by troops, shouted at my colleague and said he wanted to delete the videos from his phone. Within seconds, the man punched my colleague and snatched his phone."
"Although I explained to them we were journalists and simply doing our job, they wouldn't listen. My colleague was attacked further and we raised strong objections. The microphone of another BBC colleague was taken and thrown away."
"The phone was returned after the videos were deleted from the device. Another army officer intervened and let us go."
Jerin Samuel, an Indian journalist & BBC News cameraman, was attacked by members of #SriLanka‘s military as he was filming brutal pre-dawn crackdown on protesters at #Colombo‘s main protest site #GotaGoGama during the early hours of Friday (22). | Jerin Samuel / FB pic.twitter.com/mH2nVxEKD4
— JDS (@JDSLanka) July 22, 2022
"A joint operation involving the military, police and police special forces was launched in the early hours to recover the presidential secretariat from the protesters as they have no legal right to hold it," claimed police spokesperson Nalin Thalduwa.
"Nine people, including two injured, have been arrested."
The Galle Face protest site had been the centre of demonstrations in recent months, as protestors demanded the resignation of former president Gotabaya Rajapaksa amidst a deepening economic crisis.
As he took up oaths yesterday, newly appointed president Ranil Wickremesinghe issued a stark warning to the island’s protestors. “We will deal with them firmly according to the law,” he said, just hours after government supporters reportedly attacked another demonstration site in the South. Sri Lanka remains in a state of emergency, which had been declared by Wickremesinghe last week, granting the police and military extra powers of arrest.
His first call of the day was to the Defence Headquarters Complex hours, where he met with military leaders accused of war crimes.
Hours later, the army stormed the protest site.