I went to the Tamil protest that is blocking University Avenue since Sunday at the American Consulate. I'd say that there were about 500 to 1000 Tamils there chanting non-stop. There was a sea of Tamil Tiger and American flags, with some Canadian flags in between. The protest's emphasis is to ask Obama to get involved. The protest is still going; the organizers say that they will not leave until there is a ceasefire. There was a lot of very long banners; you could ring the whole protest with them. Strangely enough, jute rope has been deployed in many places, kind of creating a pen on the street. There was a sound system broadcasting the cheerleadering from one guy in particular, but there were a lot of megaphones and some subsections of the protest were going at their own beat. Actually, the north end was the densest part of the protest, where drummers were keeping the energy and the spirits higher. All the chants were of the very short call and answer variety, such as "Canada - Break the silence" "Must stop - Genocide" "Our Leader - Prabhakaran" "Tamil Timers - Freedom fighters" "Obama - Free the Tamils" "Rajapakse - War criminal" and more stuff about Tamils and Tamil Eelam. You can guess which slogans I was selective in responding to.
The cops have moved the protesters away from the south-bound lane this morning, as University has three hospitals and the avenue is a major access point. There was one row of about 6 cops on horseback at one end of the protest, and other pods of 4-5 cops are various ends of the protest. In spite of huge aggravation from drivers, the cops are not moving the protest out, as it is legal and non-violent.
I'm kind of conflicted about it, even if I went; it's quite clear that the Tigers are losing badly, with the SL Army claiming that they're boxed in an area of 10 square miles or so. If Prabhakaran is indeed there and needs to escape, a ceasefire is absolutely necessary for him right now. Personally, I think Tamils could do a lot better without the Tigers; at the "with us or against us" and "speaking with guns" game, you can rarely win against the state. The kind of absolute loyalty demanded of Tamils towards the Tigers belies the same kind of reductive view that made Tamils a persecuted minority in the first place. A poster was condemning the Sri Lankan Government and Indian, in particular the Congress Party, with a picture of Gandhi; while Congress has not been a particularly friendly with the Sri Lankan Tamils, I think they don't necessarily need to toss Gandhi with the rest of the bathwater. But then, what history do I know?
I was one of about 5 non-Tamils protesting. Where's everyone else? Although I don't think that the Tamils are particularly good at outreach or solidarity with other people. Not that many people want to see Tiger flags appear at their protests, either. This is all so insular. (No pun intended.)
I was asked many times to call the White House to ask the United States to get involved. I'm thinking of doing it and recording it to see how that works out.