The Sri Lankan police violently dispersed hundreds of demonstrators a day after severely curtailing protest rights in response to months of unrest sparked by the island nation’s sharp economic downturn.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe has taken a tough line against activists who forced his predecessor to flee the country and resign in July at the peak of the country’s crisis.
Officers in anti-riot gear blocked the student march hours after the government declared the city centre a “high security zone”, outlawing protests in the vicinity.
Police fired tear gas and water cannon on Saturday to clear out the demonstrators, who were demanding the release of fellow activists detained under anti-terrorism laws.
Witnesses saw police detain dozens of participants.
Wickremesinghe on Friday ordered a ban on all demonstrations and protests near key institutions, including his office and the homes of the military top brass.
Sri Lanka’s influential bar association condemned the ban and said it seriously undermined freedom of expression and assembly.