Police chief says Tamil protest moved 'peacefully'
Published Thursday, April 30, 2009 12:18PM EDT
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said authorities were able to move protesting Tamil-Canadians off the roadway this morning "quite peacefully and without major disruptions."
The northbound and southbound lanes of University Avenue have reopened after they were shut down for four days because of a protest by Toronto's Tamil community.
The protesters have been ushered onto the front lawns of Toronto Superior Court at 361 University Ave. A thick line of police officers is preventing the demonstrators from spilling onto the streets.
Fewer than 100 protesters were on the scene Thursday morning but the protest has attracted more than 1,000 people in the afternoons.
"The crowd was smaller (this morning) and we were in a position where we could get them onto the sidewalk," Blair said.
He added that the protest would likely continue in a smaller capacity but would be more manageable for police and the public.
"Today we were able to move it to a less disruptive phase and I'm very happy about that," he said.
The northbound lanes reopened shortly after 8 a.m. Police were able to open the soutbound lanes to traffic at around 9:15 a.m.
Though some of the demonstrators protested against being moved, the rally remained peaceful Thursday morning.
Blair told reporters at a news conference Thursday morning that police were able to speak with leaders of the demonstration last night to "help achieve a peaceful resolution."
He commended the public for being patient with the disruptions but admitted that police received several complaints about the noise level coming out of the protest.
The protest took place in a hospital zone that is also home to businesses, offices, condominiums and a court house.
On Thursday night, police took away a generator and sound system protesters were using to help make themselves heard, Blair said.
He said the police have acted carefully to respect people's right to protest.
"We tried to do it in a way that didn't cause new problems with our citizens," he said.
Yesterday evening, police arrested 15 people at the protest during a scuffle that broke out between authorities and demonstrators. One protester was injured.
The protest, entering its fifth day, started Sunday night when hundreds of Tamils camped out on the road in front of the U.S. Consulate.
They are protesting the actions of Sri Lanka's government against its Tamil residents. They are hoping to pressure American and Canadian governments to speak out against the civil war in Sri Lanka and impose a ceasefire.
Blair said world issues often have an impact on residents of a multicultural city such as Toronto.
He defended the large amount of resources that went into staffing the protest this past week by saying enough officers were deployed to keep the public and themselves safe.