COLOMBO (AFP) – Hundreds of Sri Lankan soldiers and police raided the main anti-government protest camp in the capital early on Friday (July 21) and began tearing down tents of unarmed activists, an AFP reporter said.
They swooped in on the protesters blocking the Presidential Secretariat in the capital hours before demonstrators were due to vacate the area.
Security personnel armed with batons began removing barricades set up by protesters blocking the main gate of the Presidential Secretariat they had partly overrun earlier this month.
Activists had announced they planned to vacate the area by Friday afternoon, after a Cabinet was sworn in by new the president, Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Witnesses saw soldiers surrounding the sea-front office and removing several temporary structures set up in the area to provide logistics for thousands of anti-government protesters since April.
Security forces used loud hailers asking a few hundred protesters to pull back and confine themselves to a designated area near the secretariat.
Several activists were seized by troops who smashed tents set up along the main road leading to the presidential office.
Supporters of the #GoHomeGota campaign pressing president Gotabaya Rajapaksa to step down had taken over the area after capturing Rajapaksa’s palace on July 9, forcing him to flee and eventually resign.
After Rajapaksa stepped down, prime minister Wickremesinghe took over the leadership temporarily until he was confirmed as the new president in a parliamentary vote on Wednesday.