Protests for Black July

   25 July 2006, early morning

As I mentioned yesterday, there was a large protest for Canada’s actions—or lack thereof—in the conflict in Sri Lanka, and a memorial for the communal riots of July 1983. I attended the event for an hour or so. During that time, I got to hear 3 politicians speak, watch a dance performance, and listen to some poetry. Of the three speakers I heard, Jim Karygiannis seemed to be the most informed of the lot. He has actually been to Sri Lanka, and has been attending these events for some time. The focus of the event (while I was there) was primarily on human rights abuses in Sri Lanka and requests for Canada to play a bigger role in the peace process. Dundas square was fairly packed; there was a sea of Tamil people sitting on the ground and standing around the edge of the square. Teenagers handed out flyers to people walking by the busy Dundas and Yonge intersection.

Two things in particular made this an effective protest I would say, beyond the sheer number of people out at Dundas Square:

  • There wasn’t much discussion on the LTTE whatsoever. Strangers on the street can learn about what is going on in Sri Lanka without having their opinions coloured by things they have heard about the LTTE. (I think one problem with the Tigers is that their notoriety overshadows that of the actual conflict.)
  • Most of the speakers were in English, which meant that the event could attract an audience outside of the Tamil community. Those speakers who did speak in Tamil had their speeches paraphrased afterwards by one of the Tamil MCs. At the protests I’ve attended in support of democracy in Iran, I think the overuse of Farsi is problematic. (I haven’t attended any big protests, where things might be different.)

Was anyone else there?

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Comments

  1. I’d be interested to know, in the hour you were there, how many non-Tamils were there in the crowd?

  2. To be honest not that many compared to the number of Tamil people. You’d see them on the fringes of the crowd listening for a bit. I suspect those inside the square sitting with Tamil people probably knew the people they were with. What was it like at the last protest you were at, the one which was mostly in Tamil?

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