Cablegate: Anti-Government Protest Near Amembassy Colombo
DE RUEHLM #0763 2271454
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 141454Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 8541
UNCLAS COLOMBO 000763
DEPT FOR DS/IP/RD/SCA, DS/IP/ITA, DS/CC
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTEST NEAR AMEMBASSY COLOMBO
1. At approximately 1630 hr. local time, August 14, 2008, an
anti-government demonstration took place near the U.S.
Embassy in Colombo. A group of approximately 3000 protesters
reached the Colpetty Junction, approximately 150 meters south
of the Embassy's main gate. The protesters from two student
groups (the Unemployed Graduates Association and
Inter-university Students Federation) were intent on
approaching "Temple Trees," an official GSL facility that is
located across Galle Road, near the Embassy. The police
blocked the Colpetty Junction to prevent the protesters'
advance. Demonstrators refused to comply with police commands
to disburse and advanced upon the waiting police. Riot police
reacted with water cannons and tear gas. Police and rioters
engaged in heated confrontations for over one hour. A few
thousand protesters disbursed, but a hard-core group of
approximately 1000 continued to contest the police until 2045
hr., when they finally retreated.
2. Although RSO Colombo reacted the Marines Security Guard
Detachment to the Embassy, no Embassy personnel were ever
endangered by the protest. Colpetty Junction was closed to
traffic at close of business. Embassy personnel, unable to
return home by direct routes, were forced to make a
circuitous commute to their residences. Wafting tear gas,
traffic jams and long commutes were the main problems that
the protest caused for Embassy personnel.
3. Point of contact for this message is Michael Perkins, RSO,
who may be contacted at 126.96.36.19956 or 188.8.131.5288 (MSG
Post 1 after regular business hours).