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LALIT holds anti-war demonstration outside US Embassy

21.03.2004

At 11.30 am on Saturday, 20th March, joining in the world-wide protests saying "No to War! No to Occupation!", LALIT members held a protest with pancartes outside the US Embassy in the busy John Kennedy Street in Port Louis. The main slogan read "U.S.A. GET OUT OF DIEGO!" This refers to the US military occupation of Diego Garcia, in the Chagos Archipelago, where there is a huge military base used for the B-2's and B-52's to take off from during the "Shock and Awe" bombing of Baghdad exactly one year ago on 20th March.

Meanwhile, the Mauritian Prime Minister last Friday announced that it has just had legal advice that the excision of Diego Garcia and the Chagos Archipelago in 1965 by the former colonial power was "illegal" because it was against the UN Charter. This is not "news" at all, because everyone has known it for 39 years. What it shows is that the Mauritian Government is under political pressure to pretend to be doing something.

The protest on 20th March is part of this pressure. There were eleven pancartes held by eleven activists at any one time, while all the other demonstrators stood around or distributed leaflets, thus also drawing attention, at the same time, to the repressive Public Gatherings Act which limits the freedom to demonstrate. In a case brought against two LALIT members, the Court held that less than 12 people cannot be called a "demonstration" for the purposes of the Act. This has meant that over recent years, many protests involve eleven people holding pancartes while the others do not.

A group of senior policemen came up to the LALIT protestors at one point, and said they were to move to to opposite side of John Kennedy Street. The LALIT protestors refused to move. There were verbal altercations, with LALIT members asking the policemen to go and kick out the Americans from Diego Garcia, referring to the Prime Minister's recent discovery that their presence there was illegal. The police began to carry in portable hand-railings, but the protest came to an end without further repression.