ISTANBUL: Turkish police fired tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets late Saturday to disperse hundreds of people protesting after Islamists attacked Radiohead fans for attending an album launch during Ramadan.
A group of about 20 men beat up customers and employees at the Velvet IndieGround music store on Friday night, angry that they were drinking alcohol at the event during the Muslim holy month.
Some 500 people gathered in Istanbul’s central Cihangir neighborhood Saturday night in response to a call from activists to protest against the attack, an Agence France-Presse photographer said.
The protesters shouted “Shoulder to shoulder against fascism!” and denounced President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a “thief” and a “killer.”
The protesters dispersed into side-streets in less than an hour, choking on police tear gas. No one appeared to have been injured in the police operation.
Turkish authorities have regularly cracked down on anti-government demonstrations since mass protests in 2013, using tear gas and water cannon against even small gatherings.
At least two people were injured in Friday’s attack at the record store, witnesses told Turkey’s Dogan news agency.
The attackers trashed the shop in Istanbul’s hip Tophane district, hurled insults and broke up the release party for Radiohead’s new album “A Moon Shaped Pool.”
The British rock group condemned the attack, saying: “We hope that some day we will be able to look back on such acts of violent intolerance as things of the ancient past. “For now, we can only offer our fans in Istanbul our love and support.”
Images filmed during the altercation and widely circulating on social media show the attackers hurling bar stools and wrecking the store.
One person is seen bleeding with head injuries after being hit with a bottle.
One of the attackers is heard shouting: “We will kill you, you bastards!”
Rayka Simoni, who was outside the store, told Dogan that the Radiohead fans were “quietly listening to music while sipping beer” when they were attacked.
“Twenty people started throwing bottles at them. One of them kicked my friend for telling them it wasn’t right to hit women,” she said.
The Hurriyet newspaper said the music store’s owner was a South Korean national who had been living in Turkey for many years. It said many South Koreans were inside at the time of the attack.
Police have opened an investigation into the violence.
Similar attacks have targeted art galleries in the area in the past, with critics claiming Turkey’s current Islamic-rooted government is undermining the country’s secular tradition. AFP