Tamil activists campaigning for a boycott of Sri Lankan cricket were punched and assaulted by Sri Lankan cricket fans, outside the Oval cricket stadium in London today. Shortly after 9pm when the Australia v Sri Lanka cricket match drew to a close, hundreds of Sri Lankan fans surrounded the handful of Tamil campaigners present and began to chant racist slogans such as "F*** Tamils!"
Groups of Sri Lankan fans began to grab placards from the Tamil activists, including from a young boy who looked no older than 10. As the assaults escalated, several Tamil activists were punched, including one elderly gentleman. One young Tamil man was dragged by the Sri Lankan cricket fans on the floor, before two police officers intervened. Minor injuries were sustained.
The assaulted elderly gentleman told Tamil Guardian,
"One of the Sri Lankan cricket fans took my placard of me whilst the other punched me in the back of the head"
Another angry young Tamil activist said,
"That Sri Lankan fan came out of no where and punched me at the back of my head... The police were there and they didn't really do much for ages!! They heard all the racism coming our way. All afternoon it was. So yeah, when the guy punched me I punched him back. But what are we supposed to do right? Just lie back and take it?"
The violence came despite police attempts to cordon off the campaign area - which was pre-arranged with the Metropolitan Police. A video sent into Tamil Guardian shows Sri Lankan fans storming through police lines towards the Tamil activists.
|Sri Lankan cricket fans break through police cordon to attack Tamil activists|
Witnessing the racial violence targeted at the Tamil activists, several Sri Lankan Tamil cricket fans leaving the match were seen to come and join the Tamil activists behind the police lines.
Speaking to Tamil Guardian, with the remnants of his Sri Lankan face paint still visible on his face, one such young Tamil said:
“I'm just disgusted. I've always supported the Sri Lankan cricket team, and I thought of myself as a true fan.. but now I'm just disgusted... like I'm almost ashamed.. that's why I've rubbed off my face paint! I mean, I'm Tamil, exactly like all these protesters and look how the Sri Lankan cricket fans are treating Tamils. This is exactly what my parents said happened to them in Sri Lanka before they left. It's disgusting."
Tamil activists, now engulfed in the midst of hundreds of Sri Lankan fans were told by the police that they could not guarantee the safety of the activists as all exit routes from the allocated protest area were blocked off.
Police escorted the Tamil activists into a temporary area, protected by police vans and newly set up barricades, before dispersing the Sri Lankan fans towards Oval tube station. Tamil activists were then guided towards Vauxhall tube station by the police.
No arrests were made.
The racial abuse began during the late afternoon, when Sri Lankan fans starting to come up to the Tamil activists leafleting and shouting statements such as "You f***ing Tamils!", "We've taken over Sri Lanka!" and "This [pointing at the Sri Lankan flag] is the only flag for us!", forcing police to step in.
By 8pm, groups of Sri Lankan fans had begun to congregate immediately opposite the boycott campaign area, shouting and swearing in Sinhalese.
Some came up to the campaign area and took photographs of the Tamil activists.
|Sri Lankan fans shout at Tamil activists|
In line with previous boycott Sri Lankan cricket campaign events organised by the Tamil activists, the day had started off very peacefully. Activists across the ages had been distributing leaflets and chatting to passers-by since the mid-morning.
One of the organisers told Tamil Guardian,
"After a 3rd day of successful peaceful campaigning for a boycott of Sri Lankan cricket until there is an international investigation into war crimes and genocidal crimes in Sri Lanka, it is really sad that Sri Lankan fans have reacted so violently and in such a racialised way to our calls."
"Lots of people talk about a 'human rights' problem in Sri Lanka, but today's incident just shows that, yes whilst there are human rights issues there, the main problem for over 60 years is one of racism."
"At the end of the day, the fact is I wasn't punched for being a rights activist. That Sri Lankan cricket fan punched me for being a "f***ing Tamil" as he put it."
Updated 18 June 2013 09:34 BST
The video below was sent to Tamil Guardian by an activist, which shows Tamil activists being beaten and dragged into the road by a mob of Sri Lanka cricket fans.
See more photos of Sri Lanka cricket fans attacking Tamils, as an elderly Tamil man and child take cover on TamilWin here.
Despite the violence Tamil activists continued to chant slogans calling on the ECB to boycott Sri Lanka and for the self-determiniation of the Tamil nation.
Speaking to Tamil Guardian, one activist said he was undeterred and the protest planned for Thursday's match in Cardiff - India v Sri Lanka - would go ahead as planned.
"Despite the violence from Sri Lankan fans, we will continue to protest peacefully, as we have done throughout the tournament, at all of Sri Lanka's matches in the UK.
It's our right to protest. This Thursday, Sri Lanka will be playing at Cardiff again, and we will carry on exercising our right to protest, until a full boycott of the Sri Lankan cricket team takes place."