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'We could not be silenced' - Tamil protests in London, 1984

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“It had been a year since the Black July riots in Sri Lanka. We had protested in front of the Sri Lankan Embassy in London but wanted to try something different. Something bigger.

The Sri Lankan cricket team was coming to play their first test match at Lord’s, the home of cricket. It was a big deal. Why don't we put on a protest there? It would be disruptive, yes, but was there a bigger stage for our message?

So we made a plan; to run on the pitch and lie down holding banners with messages about the situation back home, about how the Sri Lankan government was treating us Tamils. We wanted to be disruptive, to be recognised.

We hid the banners under our clothes and waited for the right moment. We had spread out across the grounds so we would run in from all angles. We wanted to maximise our chances, we knew they’d be onto us as soon we set foot. We planned to set off in two groups, one before the opening ball and another after lunch. 

I barely watched the match. My focus was on the task. I wasn’t nervous, I saw it as a mission. I couldn’t fail. Ian Botham was bowling with Sidath Wettimuny on strike, couldn’t get more higher profile than that - this was our moment. I waited for the signal.

I remember running onto the pitch but the rest was a blur - we did it. The stewards got a hold of us but we resisted, we didn't want to give up so easily. Eventually, we got taken away, even arrested, and spent the night in jail.

Looking back, I have no regrets. I did it for my people and my nation and I’m proud of that. We could not be censored. We could not be silenced. But sadly, thirty-six years later the situation back home still hasn’t changed and that's what hurts the most.”


This article was originally published by 47 Roots and reproduced with permission. Please see the full post here.

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