UK Riot Police Hold Back Anti-Syria Protesters

Published February 4, 2012 3:27PM (EST)

LONDON (AP) — British police have used batons and riot shields to hold back protesters trying to storm the Syrian Embassy in London for the second time in one day.

Earlier Saturday, demonstrators stormed the embassy after Syrian forces reportedly killed more than 200 people in the city of Homs. Police said six people were arrested in that incident.

Protesters regrouped and gathered force later in the day, breaking through police barriers and chanting "We want to close the embassy!"

Police brought in sandbags and riot gear to regain control of the surging crowd, which lobbed objects at the embassy, situated near Buckingham Palace.

Demonstrators against Syrian President Bashar Assad have stormed five embassies in Europe and the Middle East.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

LONDON (AP) — Demonstrators have stormed five Syrian embassies in Europe and the Middle East after Syrian forces reportedly killed more than 200 people in the city of Homs.

In Europe, protesters forced their way into the Syrian embassies in London and Athens on Saturday, prompting some arrests and causing minor damage.

Britain's Foreign Office condemned the break-in, which it said put two police officers in the hospital with minor injuries.

British police said six people were arrested following a demonstration that began in London at 1 a.m. GMT Saturday (8 p.m. EST Friday) and drew around 150 protesters.

Scotland Yard said five men were arrested for forcing entry into the embassy on London's wealthy Belgrave Square, while a sixth was arrested for assaulting police. Scotland Yard said all six remain in custody.

A similar scene played out in Athens, where police said 13 people — 12 Syrians and one Iraqi national — were detained after forcing their way into the Syrian Embassy before dawn.

In Germany, 20 people forced their way into Syria's Embassy in Berlin on Friday and damaged offices there, police said.

Syrian protesters in Cairo set part of the embassy on fire Friday night, while protesters in Kuwait broke windows at the embassy and hoisted the opposition flag. The Kuwait news agency said a number of security personnel were hurt in scuffles.

Syria's government has denied the assault on Homs, calling news reports about it part of a "hysterical campaign" of incitement by armed groups against Syria, meant to be exploited at the U.N. Security Council as it prepares to vote on a draft resolution backing an Arab call for President Bashar Assad to give up power.

A vote was scheduled in New York later Saturday, but negotiations were continuing to the last minute as Russia, a strong ally of Syria, signaled it would veto any call for a political transition in the country.

The Syrian National Council, Syria's main opposition group, urged Russia to stop its "shameful intransigence" at the U.N. and for the world to help stem the bloodshed. It also called for Syrians to protest outside their embassies.

Demonstrations gathered force again later Saturday in London, where dozens of anti-Assad protesters chanting "We want to close the embassy" tried to rush the building, pushing back against a thin cordon of police officers.

Police used batons to beat back the surging demonstrators, but at one point the crowd broke through metal barriers holding them back and prompted a scramble of officers to try to maintain order.

Nearly a dozen officers formed a second line of defense directly in front of the embassy, which bore evidence of the early morning events in the form of paint splatters and a broken window.

The Foreign Office said it takes seriously its obligations to protect the staff and premises of foreign nations in the U.K. and that police are reviewing security arrangements at the Syrian embassy in light of Saturday's events.

By Salon Staff

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