TORONTO - A large but peaceful protest by Tamil-Canadians at the Ontario legislature has prompted police to close down the road in front of the nearby U.S. Consulate.

The consulate has been the scene of past protests by the Tamil community, who are calling on western governments to ramp up efforts to pressure the Sri Lankan government toward a ceasefire.

Thousands of people are at the legislature today chanting "no more genocide" in reference to the civil war in their native Sri Lanka, where civilians caught in the crossfire continue to die.

Police officers in riot gear formed a perimeter around the protest, a move that comes after thousands of Tamil protesters overwhelmed a handful of police officers Sunday and swarmed onto a downtown Toronto highway, closing it for hours.

Last month, Tamil protesters shut down University Avenue in front of the U.S. Consulate for several days, but today's protest has not spread to the consulate.

Toronto police, in a release announcing the road closure, say they will take "all necessary steps to ensure the public's safety."

Leading up to Wednesday's protest, police had issued warnings that the city could see disruptions again, though protest organizers had not threatened road closures.

The Tamil community is calling on Ottawa to ramp up efforts to pressure the Sri Lanka government toward a ceasefire.

Protester Sahab Jesuthasan said he understands people are frustrated by the demonstrations but added it's necessary to raise awareness.

"People are finally asking why," he said. "MPs are talking, the media is talking, people on the streets are talking. That's what we wanted."

Fellow organizer Senthan Nada said while the "intention is to have a peaceful assembly," he couldn't rule out further action because of the size of the crowd.

The red flags of Tamil Eelam were also prominently displayed Wednesday at the rally, as they have been at past rallies in both Toronto and Ottawa.

While the federal government has said those flags suggest to Canadians that the terrorist Tamil Tigers are taking part in the protests, organizers say the flags are those of the secessionist movement and not the terrorist group.

The protesters were also flying Canadian flags alongside those of Tamil Eelam.

The frustration over Sri Lanka's civil war boiled over Sunday after reports that an all-night artillery barrage in the country's war zone killed more than 370 people and forced thousands to flee to makeshift shelters along a beach.

Thousands of people, including many children, barricaded the Gardiner Expressway.

Inside the legislature Wednesday, Premier Dalton McGuinty encouraged the UN Security Council to find a way for Canada and other countries to help civilians affected by the fighting in Sri Lanka.

McGuinty said he understands why people in Toronto are unhappy about the protests, especially Sunday's, but added it's important to speak out in the face of a significant breach of human rights.

He said thousands of civilians are being killed in northern Sri Lanka, and Canadians need to recognize that the protests are rooted in real concerns.

McGuinty said this is not a time for the international community to be silent, and he is in favour of the UN Security Council bringing countries together to help.

He also commended the federal government for providing more aid to the region in recent days, saying the province will continue to push Ottawa to do more.

The Tamil protest took place as several hundred Falun Dafa took an anniversary parade onto the lawn of the legislature.