At least 2,000 angry Muslims attacked the US consulate general with stones and sticks at the busy Gemini Circle, Chennai on Friday evening in protest against an American film that denigrated the Prophet.
The protesters broke the bulletproof glass window at the mission entrance. The police force was either inadequate in numbers or it just failed to respond in quick time to the attack by members of the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK).
The TMMK had given notice of its rally a couple of days back, yet the Chennai police did not take adequate measures to prevent the violence, particularly considering such attacks aga-inst American missions have taken place elsewhere in the world.
Anti-US demos spread to Chennai
“All our staff are safe and accounted for. We do not want to say anything more at this point of time,” said a spokesman for the U.S. Consulate General late on Thursday evening, when asked to comment on the TMMK attack on the mission.
The diplomats and other staff were rattled by the violence that took place despite the presence of police force at the busy Gemini junction, where the fortress-like mission is located.
They were even more distressed on knowing that another Muslim outfit, the Tamilnadu thowheed Jamath has put out notice that its members would ‘lay siege’ to the mission on Saturday morning.
Two guards working for a private security agency employed by the mission were injured in the attack by the agitators.
“We will be better prepared on Saturday”, assured Chennai police commissioner J K Tripathy, trying best to overcome his embarrassment at being not just outnumbered by the protesters but also outsmarted.
“We were expecting them to assemble at the Thousands Lights mosque on Peters Road but the protesters came in five buses from the Tambaram side and got to the consulate by jumping from the Gemini flyover”, he said.
A senior state official noted grimly that despite its image as a peaceful and sober state, Tamil Nadu has now managed to get into world news by being the only place in India to witness a violent demonstration and attack on a US mission.
The city police has stationed a riot-control vehicle, Vajra, for years just outside the mission, which is heavily fortified with a tall compound wall fitted with steel grills and TV cameras. A few agitators managed to climb on the colleagues’ shoulders to reach a TV camera and smash it.
Their colleagues picked up a heavy police-barricade and tried to smash the bulletproof glass window at the mission’s entrance even as a few policemen stood helplessly.
The violent demonstration lasted over 30 minutes before the police officers gathered their wits and pushed them towards the Peters Road, where some more angry TMMK members were demonstrating against the American film that denigrated the Prophet.