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News

Spectators barred from Galle Fort ramparts in bid to keep away protesters

Anti-government activists were also removed from the fort during the first Test between Sri Lanka and Australia

At the main intersection near the stadium, three men, who were not allowed to enter Galle Fort, sit with the poster they had brought along, Galle, July 8, 2022

At the main intersection near the stadium, three men, who were not allowed to enter Galle Fort, sit with the poster they had brought along  •  ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Spectators have been barred completely from the ramparts of the Galle Fort, which overlooks the cricket stadium where the second Test between Sri Lanka and Australia is being played. This, after anti-government protesters had been forcibly removed from the area during the first Test between these teams.
Police officers guarding access to the ramparts told ESPNcricinfo that even the ICC has asked for spectators be kept away. However, not only has the ICC never previously spoken against viewing matches from the fort, public spaces in Sri Lanka are also well beyond their jurisdiction.
Last week, an army spokesman told The Morning that protesters had been removed in order to ensure batters were not distracted. Australia, who were batting that day, have since said that they had no qualms with public presence at the fort.
Although several protesters had been removed from the fort on day two of the first Test of the series, a sign demanding the resignation of Sri Lanka's president and prime minister had been seen for several hours on end in the evening session. The following day - day three of the Test - no spectators were seen on the ramparts, as police and army patrolled the area.
As the ramparts are public property, crowds - sometimes swelling to hundreds, and very occasionally to even thousands - frequently watch cricket from there. This free vantage point is among the ground's distinguishing features, with fans of touring teams also often setting up there to see the game.
There have been widespread anti-government protests in Sri Lanka in recent months, some of which have come amid a deepening economic crisis in the country, which has left it desperately short of fuel, cooking gas and essential medicines, while the cost of living has also skyrocketed.
SLC has essentially banned protests inside its grounds this series, preventing spectators from bringing anti-government placards and banners into its venues, although posters thanking Australia for touring were allowed.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf