Police make 15 arrests at Tamil protest downtown
Published Wednesday, April 29, 2009 11:37PM EDT
Police made some arrests at the Tamil protest on University Avenue in front of the U.S. consulate.
Media reports first said at least nine people have been arrested and that at least one person may have been injured.
Const. Tony Vella told ctvtoronto.ca on Wednesday around suppertime that he didn't yet have a full tally of how many may have been arrested, adding he is collecting that information. He didn't have any information about anyone being injured.
"Our number-one priority is public safety," Vella said.
A later statement by police indicates that 21 people have been arrested. But a news release issued late Wednesday said 15 people would face charges: Six for breach of the peace and nine for mischief interfere with property.
A future news release would be issued detailing the charges, it said.
The police news release didn't detail any injuries, but CTV Toronto reported that at least two people were injured.
Tempers reportedly flared about 30 minutes earlier when some protesters tried to push outside of a containment zone established by the authorities, blocking traffic on Dundas Street West.
Senior officers told the protesters to retreat south of Dundas.
However, the scene has since quieted down. Aerial shots showed the public order mounted unit on scene, but they started leaving the area by 4:40 p.m.
Police say the roadway will remain closed between Dundas and Queen Street West until at least after the morning rush hour on Thursday.
Earlier Wednesday, the protesters were simply chanting on the third full day of their protest.
The roadway is still closed to regular traffic though room has been made for emergency vehicles travelling to a number of hospitals located in the area.
Some drivers say they are fed up with the disruptions.
"I'm on my way to court and I hate this," said one frustrated driver.
"As long as they're calm about it, I guess it's okay, I just wish they'd do this somewhere else," one man told CTV Toronto from behind the wheel of his car.
Police have asked demonstrators not to use metal poles to hoist their flags in an effort to ensure public safety.
The protest has been mostly peaceful except for a brief scuffle Tuesday morning between participants and the police when demonstrators were asked to move to the east side of the street.
The rally began Sunday night when hundreds of people from Toronto's Tamil community camped out on University Avenue overnight. They have not left the area since.
During the day, the crowd has grown to more than 1,000 protesters.
The demonstration is one of many to be held by Toronto's Tamil community over the ongoing conflict in Sri Lanka between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
"Every single second that these international guardsmen the United Nations wastes, there is people dying," said one protester.
The LTTE have been fighting for a separate Tamil homeland on the island nation of Sri Lanka. The group is considered a banned terrorist organization in Canada.
However, some LTTE flags have been seen flying at the protests.
Supporters call the group a liberation army engaged in a battle with an oppressive opponent.
The protesters want the Canadian and U.S. governments, along with the United Nations, to pressure the Sri Lankan government to stop its military offensive against the LTTE.
Protesters promised to continue peaceful demonstrations until that goal is achieved.
With reports from CTV Toronto's Michelle Dube, Chris Eby and Galit Solomon