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Striking visuals highlight AP’s all-formats coverage as Sri Lankans storm government residences, offices

People occupy President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s official residence for a second straight day during anti-government protests in Colombo, Sri Lanka, July 11, 2022. Within days, Rajapaksa fled the economically crippled island nation and emailed the resignation his critics have demanded for months. Sri Lanka is in a political vacuum for a second day Monday with opposition leaders yet to agree on who should replace its roundly rejected leaders, whose residences are occupied by protesters, angry over the country's economic woes. (AP Photo / Eranga Jayawardena)

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When police imposed a curfew in Sri Lanka’s capital a day before the planned protest demanding the resignations of the country’s president and prime minister, the AP’s Colombo team knew to expect something big. Protesters have blocked the entrance to the president’s office for months, accusing him and his powerful family of corruption and misrule.

But what followed on Saturday and subsequent days was unprecedented — a stunning show of public fury over the country’s dire economic crisis and months of political turmoil.

As tens of thousands of citizens rallied in the heart of Colombo,the AP photo and video team already knew where the action would be most dramatic. They planned alternate communications in case the internet was shut down,and anticipated quick filing of mobile phone video via WhatsApp to the Delhi bureau for editing and transmission, with longer vido edits to follow later.

The crowd’s numbers kept swelling and the visual crews were well positioned to capture the drama when protesters stormed the colonial-era presidential palace. The extraordinary visuals showed demonstrators taking a dip in the presidential swimming pool and occupying the home of the most powerful man in the country.

The protesters also entered the heavily guarded secretariat — President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s office — and set ablaze the residence of the prime minister. The conditions on the ground were challenging,including reports of journalists being attacked, but the AP team managed to deliver some of the most defining images of the dramatic climax to monthslong turmoil.

AP correspondents Krishan Francis and Bharatha Mallawarachi filed quick alerts and updated the text story with fast-moving developments as the president and prime minister offered to resign. Freelancer Amitha Thennakoon sent in first images of the protests as AP photographer Eranga Jayawardena rushed back to Colombo from his cricket assignment,driving straight into the middle of the turmoil. He was joined by AP Mumbai photographer Rafiq Maqbool on Monday. Video stringer Jay Palipane sent footage to Delhi for quick relay to AP platforms and customers.

For months of planning and legwork to chronicle the government’s dramatic fall,including once-in-a-lifetime visuals,AP’s Best of the Week — First Winner award goes to Francis,Mallawarachi,Jayawardena, Palipane and Maqbool.

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