Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Indian High Commission in London on 22 October to protest against the killing of two Sikh men by police in India last week. However, the protest in central London turned unpleasant as police clashed with demonstrators while attempting to break up a roadblock that had brought traffic to a standstill.
Protesters had gathered at the High Commission at midday for what was meant to be a peaceful protest in solidarity with the Sikh community in India. One hour into the demonstration, a number of protesters moved onto a busy London road to stage a blockade. They were quickly joined by others and after failed attempts by the police to clear the sit-in, additional police officers, including those from the Mounted Branch, were mobilised to the area.
One police officer suffered an injury to the head during an altercation and had to be taken to hospital. Police implemented a containment of nearly 200 people who may have been responsible for the attack, while 20 arrests were made. A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: "Police are in dialogue with those within the containment and those unassociated with the criminality are being identified and given the opportunity to leave."
Members of the Sikh community sang songs and chanted through the afternoon despite the heavy police presence and arrests. As things became increasingly tense, some protesters – particularly women and the elderly – stayed behind to provide free food and water to everyone present. Many of the protesters were disappointed with the way that the demonstration had ended, insisting that they were unaware that there would be a roadblock and that they did not support disrupting people's travel.
One protester told IBTimes UK: "This is not what I thought would happen. A select few suddenly decided to block the road and then everyone else followed them. It's not right to disturb people who are trying to go about their daily lives. We wanted to come here today and protest peacefully to raise awareness about what is happening to the Sikh community back home in India."
Despite their disappointment, many refused to leave the area and instead began handing out flyers to bystanders who were attracted by the heavy police presence. The Sikh community had also been protesting against a "media blackout" on the Sikh killings in India, with more than 80,000 people signing a petition calling on the BBC to report on the incident. Some said that despite the unfortunate end to the demonstration, they were happy to see a relatively strong media presence at the scene.
The controversy began when Indian police in Punjab clashed with protesters who were demanding the arrest of those responsible for the desecration of the Sikh holy scripture. Two Sikh men were killed during the clash when police allegedly opened fire on protesters. The UK's Sikh community have said that the incident in Punjab closely resembles events the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, when "there was a complete disregard for Sikh lives" and "widespread police and army brutality".