Roads close as thousands of Tamils protest in T.O.
Published Monday, March 16, 2009 8:13PM EDT
Thousands of people from Toronto's Tamil community gathered downtown to form a human chain through the core of the city Monday afternoon to protest the civil war in Sri Lanka.
The protesters formed a human chain that started on Front Street, and headed up Yonge Street to Bloor Street, and head west down Bloor to University Avenue, where it turned back south to Front.
The peaceful protest was meant to draw attention to the attacks by the Sri Lankan military on Tamils in that country's bloody civil war.
Many protesters voiced their support for the Tamil Tigers, a group formally known as The Liberation Tamil of Tigers Eelam. The Canadian government has the group officially listed as a terrorist organization.
Some protesters showed up dressed in military fatigues in support of the Tigers, and said they want Canada to recognize the group as freedom fighters rather than terrorists.
Toronto police closed several roads in the area for a short time because of the sheer amount of people protesting, including:
- Front Street, between York and Bay Streets
- York Street, from Front Street to Wellington Street
- Traffic was moving slowly through Front Street, Yonge Street and University Avenue
A similar demonstration in January drew about 45,000 people. With the weather warmer this time, this demonstration is expected to be even larger.
The protest began at 1 p.m. and will likely last until 6 p.m. Police are advising motorists to take alternate routes during the afternoon to avoid being caught in slowed-down traffic.
The Greater Toronto Area is home to one of the largest Tamil communities outside Sri Lanka. About 200,000 Tamils live in and around the city.
More than 70,000 people have been killed in the civil war that has been ravaging Sri Lanka since 1983.
The United Nations human rights chief recently warned that civilian casualties could reach "catastrophic" proportions if the two sides do not suspend their fighting soon.
Sri Lanka's Tamil minority has been fighting for their own separate state in the north. Their cause is championed by the militant group, the Tamil Tigers. The Singhalese majority and their government oppose the separatist movement.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Galit Solomon