England Cricket HQ Invaded
"Stop The Zimbabwe Tour", demand protesters.
Protesters invaded and occupied the headquarters of the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) at Lord's Cricket Ground, London, this afternoon, Monday 13 January 2003.
The "Stop The Tour" group confronted the ECB Chief Executive, Tim Lamb, and the Development Officer, Keith Pont, in their offices, demanding the ECB call off the cricket tour to Zimbabwe in protest at human rights abuses by the Mugabe regime.
Surrounding the two ECB leaders, and passively resisting attempts by staff to remove them, the protesters held up placards with the slogans: "Berlin 1936, Harare 2003", "No cricket while Zim burns", and "Playing with Mugabe is not cricket".
"You wouldn't have played in Nazi Germany or in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge", protest organiser Peter Tatchell told Tim Lamb. "How can you play with Mugabe when he is starving, torturing and murdering the people of Zimbabwe?".
The eight protesters were Zimbabwean exiles and refugees, and members of the gay human rights group OutRage! Three of the Zimbabweans were tortured by Mugabe's henchmen before they fled to the UK. One had been raped.
Mr Lamb was visibly moved when the Zimbabwean refugees recounted details of their torture, and when Mr Tatchell asked him how he would feel about the tour if his wife or child was being tortured in Zimbabwe. He winced and tears came to his eyes.
Posing as the University of Westminster Sports Club, the eight got in through the main security gates at Lord's Cricket Ground, into the ECB headquarters building and up the stairs into Tim Lamb's offices.
Mr Lamb refused to answer the protester's questions in front of the TV cameras. He offered to talk to the group, but not on the record. The protesters responded that they had questions about the Zimbabwe tour which the whole country wanted answered, and were not prepared to engage in a private, non-attributable discussion.
"The venue for the England v Zimbabwe match, the Harare Sports Club, is within sight of two major torture centres. It would be like playing cricket next to a concentration camp in Hitler's Germany. Less than a mile away, peaceful protesters were beaten and arrested last week", Mr Tatchell warned. Mr Lamb refused to respond.
The ECB called the police, but the protesters left of their own free will after 40 minutes, when it became obvious that Mr Lamb was not prepared to answer their questions.
ECB Press Conference Hijacked - Tuesday 14 January 2003
There was a repeat protest the next day, Tuesday 14 January 2003, when Peter Tatchell and another group of Zimbabwean protesters forced open the main gates, stormed Lord's Cricket Ground and commandeered the ECB's press conference.
Taking over proceedings, they held their own impromptu Stop The Tour press conference, featuring Zimbabwean torture victims who spoke about their physical and sexual abuse at the hands of Mugabe's henchmen. One rape and torture victim, AN, fainted from shock and stress while retelling the trauma of her abuse.
The protest forced the ECB to delay its announcement for two hours and to relocate its press conference to the Warner Stand - under heavy police guard.
As Tim Lamb of the ECB held his press conference, he was almost drowned out by the chants of the protesters outside: "Don't play cricket with Mugabe. He's killing the people of Zimbabwe", they shouted.
When ECB officials emerged after their press conference, they were jeered with chants of: "Colluding with murder, colluding with torture. Shame on the England cricket tour".
Still photos and TV film footage: ISF News Agency - Gary Trotter 01628 542 554 firstname.lastname@example.org
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