As I rushed to Union Station on Friday to join the throngs of commuters brushing by each other to get a seat on the gotrain, thousands of Sri Lankan protesters were just ending off their successful protest in downtown Toronto. The crowd hoped to draw attention to what is being called the genocide in Sri Lanka. Peaceful protests drew thousands in other cities worldwide as urbanites in London, Australia, and Paris also witnessed human chains that reached several kilometers long and hunger strikes, all in efforts to help bring an end to the violence.
The demonstrations were a public outcry, and protesters are asking governments to help end the military offensive against Tamil civilians in the north of Sri Lanka. Both the CBC and the BBC mistakenly reported that the protest was to end violence against the Tamil Tigers, much to the discouragement of protestors. The protests brought Sri Lanka to the media for the second time in 2009, following the death of Sri Lankan journalist Lasantha Wickramatunga, editor-in-chief of The Sunday Leader, which occurred last month.
Democracy now reports that over 250,000 civilians are caught in the middle of this conflict. Reports of attacks on hospitals have also come to the forefront of the news. The Red Cross describes the situation as a humanitarian crisis. In part Friday’s protesters at Union Station hoped to draw commuter and travellers’ attention to the Tamil cause. The protests certainly grabbed headlines, but we’ll have to wait and see what kind of intervention comes of the peaceful demonstrations.