Less than ten policemen were on hand to provide security even as the crowd swooped in on US Consulate
Muslim groups who staged an angry protest outside the U.S. Consulate at Gemini Circle on Friday afternoon, taking police and passers-by by complete surprise, claimed they had informed the police about their plans to hold a demonstration outside the building.
M. Thamimun Ansari, a functionary of the Tamil Muslim Munnetra Kazhagham, which organised the protest, said there were less than 10 policemen with barricades and they were unable to handle the protesters. “We had already informed the police that there will be at least 7,000 people gathering at the Thousand Lights mosque at 4 p.m. But when we came here, we saw not even ten policemen. It is the inability of the police to make security arrangements that led to people getting violent,” Ansari said.
Both policemen as well as onlookers were equally stunned by how easily the protestors managed to get close to the guarded consulate building. “This has never happened before. Larger groups marching towards the consulate have earlier been stopped near the Thousand Lights signal,” said a security guard at the consulate.
He said that initially, a group of people in a car stopped on the opposite side of the Consulate and then charged towards the building. “They tried to get inside and were shouting slogans. The few policemen who were here tried to snatch the stones from them, but they had done enough damage,” he said.
The stretch between Royapettah signal and Thousand Lights mosque was filled for almost two hours with protesters raising slogans in Tamil and English against ‘freedom that hurt religious sentiments.’
A senior police official explained that police personnel from Egmore, Mylapore and Triplicane were immediately rushed to the spot to control the situation. Besides burning U.S flags and posters with pictures of President Obama, protesters broke glass panels of the security cabins and damaged the entrance to the visa section. Traffic moved at snail’s pace on Anna Salai, Whites Road and Royapettah.
The protest was organised to condemn the film ‘Innocence of Muslims,’ released on YouTube a few days ago. The film, created in the U.S., is known to ridicule the Prophet. “I have not seen the film but I am hurt by the idea. The Prophet is the ideal man for us and we will not tolerate any insult to him,” said Anees, a participant in the protest.
On Friday, announcements were made in all important mosques in the city urging people to come out and support the protest. “A large number of people attend morning prayers on Fridays. We distributed pamphlets and talked about the protest. So we got a very good response,” said Sirajjuddin, another protester. The idea was to hold protests in 22 different places in the State, and five places in the city. Later, it was decided to organise one protest, he said.
Over the last two days, protests against the film have been raging in Libya, Lebanon, Iran, Yemen, Egypt and Sudan, but Chennai is first city in India to witness protests. “Most of us have not seen the trailer, we don’t even want to. People should not be allowed to make films that ridicule beliefs and great men,” said Basheer P. a college student who had come with his friends from Tambaram. “We want the United States to find out details about its funding and arrest the people who are involved in its making,” he said.