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Sri Lanka

Police arrest 53 over George Floyd protest in Sri Lanka

US embassy says it did not ask authorities to block a demonstration in front of its premises

UCA News reporter, Colombo

UCA News reporter, Colombo

Updated: June 10, 2020 09:15 AM GMT
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Police arrest 53 over George Floyd protest in Sri Lanka

A Frontline Socialist Party activist clashes with police before being taken into custody during a protest outside the US embassy in Colombo on June 9. (Photo: Lakruwan Wanniarachichi/AFP)

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More than 50 activists including Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) leaders were arrested by Sri Lankan police for trying to hold a protest against the US government over the death of George Floyd.

Civil rights organizations and political parties have condemned the arrest of those who participated in the protest near the US embassy in Colombo.

They organized the protest to condemn the killing of Floyd and oppose state terrorism by US imperialism and fight for democracy and equality.

Floyd was an African-American who was killed during an arrest on May 25. Protests against police violence against black people quickly spread across the US and other parts of the world.

FSP member Pubudu Jagoda said the protest was held according to quarantine rules and maintained social distancing but police officers attacked the protesters and took many people away in a vehicle.

Jagoda said the government should not be allowed to undermine the democratic rights of the people under the cover of the Covid-19 virus and people have a right to hold fair and peaceful protests.

"We call upon all people to rally to defend the democratic rights of the people," said Jagoda.

The brutality of the police and security forces in the aftermath of the death of Floyd is gaining attention in many countries around the world.

Sri Lankan police have also been accused of torture, illegal arrests and violations of human rights.

Aroosh Priyankara, who has experienced police brutality, said he has heard of three cases of police brutality that have taken place recently.

He recalled the death of Roshan Chanaka, 21, a Catholic who was killed by police during a protest at the Free Trade Zone in Katunayake in 2011.

Ceylon Teachers Union and other rights organizations said the attack on the peaceful protest by the police and the arrest of protesters is clearly a violation of fundamental rights.

"We think the message sent by the government to those who organize such protests is a threat," said rights organizations in a statement on June 10.

"Even though government supporters have violated quarantine rules on several occasions in the recent past, the police have not been able to enforce the law.

"We condemn the government's attempt to violate the fundamental rights protected by the constitution on the pretext of the coronavirus epidemic, and we are prepared to work with trade unions and civil organizations to defeat it." 

The US embassy said it did not request Sri Lankan authorities to block the planned demonstration in front of the embassy.

The embassy said the US supports the rights of Sri Lankans and all people to hold peaceful protests, which is consistent with their shared democratic tradition.

The 53 arrested protesters were released on bail at Fort Magistrate's Court on the evening on June 9.

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