Libya unrest: London embassy protesters 'sense change'

By Neil Henderson
BBC News

Image caption,
There were signs the regime was crumbling, said protesters in London

As pressure increases on the Libyan government there has been another day of protests outside the embassy in London. A number of employees have begun joining the demonstrators outside and the Libyan flag has been switched for one that pre-dates Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's rule.

A small but passionate crowd had gathered outside the embassy in Knightsbridge to voice their disapproval of Col Gaddafi's regime.

There was a definite sense among the protesters of a long wait coming to an end.

Earlier, while Col Gaddafi's "green revolution" flag still hung from the building, the demonstrators had detected a marked change in the behaviour of the building's occupants.

Monday was the first day they had been there without an embassy video camera recording their faces and chants.

It was yet another sign, they said, that the regime was crumbling.

Vaji El-Fallah fled Libya in the 1970s after a student protest was crushed by the country's military.

He had made the trip from his home in Southend, in Essex, to lend moral support to the demonstrators.

"We've been waiting for this for 42 years," he explained. "My feelings aren't easy to describe."

Mr El-Fallah felt a combination of factors had led to the events of the last few days.

"The internet has played a huge part. The date for the rising was pasted on Facebook.

"You have unemployment of 30% - and that's just what the government is admitting to. The thing is, the fear barrier has gone. This is the first time today that no camera has been trained on us from the embassy.

"This is it. Gaddafi is finished."


The afternoon saw about 200 protesters facing across the busy main road towards the building, watched by a small group of police.

Loud chanting in Arabic was accompanied by flag waving and an ironic cheer whenever an embassy official peered from a window.

The volume was provided by young men in their twenties and thirties. But on the edge of the small crowd a group of young women in head scarfs were watching with approval and unfurling their own Libyan flag.

The women asked not to be named because they have families in Libya and all said they went back to the country every year to see their relatives.

"What Gaddafi is doing is barbaric," said one.

"We're not going to let our fellow citizens die in vain.

"The televised speech last night by Muammar Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, was utter nonsense. And if we were allowed to go to Tripoli, we would go and fight ourselves.

"But we can't, so we'll have to do our best from here."

Also attending the demonstration was Mohamed Senussi from one of the country's main opposition groups - the National Front for the Salvation for Libya.

He said the speech by Saif al-Islam had actually further damaged the regime.

"Most people are now pro the revolution," he said. "And this is now a very exciting time. An attempt by Gaddafi to divide Libyans on tribal lines has failed, and now he has run out of cards.

"He's losing his supporters."

"But we are not happy with the attitude of the European Union. We don't think they're worrying about Libya. And all respect to William Hague but we haven't seen practical things from him early enough."

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