Angry protests over the controversial anti-Islamic US film Innocence of Muslims spread to the city on Friday as members of a Muslim outfit resorted to vandalism at the office of the Consulate General of the United States here.
Volunteers of the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK) staged protests before indulging in stone pelting and damaging a CCTV surveillance camera at the consulate. The agitators also burnt the national flag of the US, smashed light domes and pulled down visitors’ information boards. By 4 pm, hundreds of TMMK men gathered on the Peters Road-Anna Salai junction without police permission. When the agitation was underway, about 150 members from the Kancheepuram District unit barged into the protest venue in five vehicles.
After participating in the agitation briefly, the group ran towards the consulate pushing down the barricades at three points from the junction. The agitators then broke the CCTV camera installed at the visa-interview entry point of the consulate on the Anna Salai side.
Stones were pelted at the security posts of the consulate damaging glass-framed wall paintings. The protestors also broke light domes and bulletin boards. US flags were set ablaze in front of the visa-interview entrance and staff entry gates. The irate protestors went on a rampage as the police’s Quick Response Team and Swift Action Guards were outnumbered.
City Police Commissioner J K Tripathy, Joint Commissioner of Police S N Seshasai and other officials held talks with the protestors and persuaded them to give up their agitation. Soon, around 400 TMMK members courted arrest and were taken to the New College campus before being released later.
As many as 346 members of the India Thowheed Jamath, who attempted to take out a rally to ‘besiege’ the US consulate, were taken into custody. Since the Intelligence Bureau had alerted all consulates, a majority of the consulate employees had left the facility when the incident took place. “All staff are safe and accounted for,” a US consulate spokesperson said.
Protests were also witnessed in other parts of the State. A large number of activists of the TMMK, Popular Front of India, Nilgiris unit, and Thowheed Jamath staged a demonstration at Udhagamandalam on Friday condemning the US-made controversial film.
TMMK cadre burnt the US flag near the Erode Head Post Office on Friday. They raised slogans against the US for allowing the controversial anti-Islamic film.
Tension prevailed at Tiruchy as the Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamaath and TMMK staged a protest separately and burnt a US flag on Friday.
In Tirunelveli, about 20 members of Manitha Neya Makkal Katchi were arrested at nearby Melapalayam for burning the US flag.