Tourists in the central square of Austria’s capital fled in terror as Kurdish protesters and opposition Turks attacked each other with pepper spray. A demonstration over the weekend left at least one police officer injured in the central square of Vienna known as Stephansplatz where the St. Stephan’s cathedral dominates the skyline. Authorities say that the clash came as the result of the Kurdish protest that was marching along the road past the Vienna State Opera House and down to the cathedral.
Turkish opposition protesters are said to have provoked the Kurds
into fighting, both sides utilizing pepper spray with tourists caught in
the middle reports Der Standard.
Police say that the march began peacefully at the opera house but
escalated quickly after the Kurds reached St. Stephan’s square. Turkish
counter-demonstrators are said to have initially hurled verbal abuse at
the Kurds who replied with their own. Over a hundred Kurds are said to
have responded to the Turkish insults with violence by spraying them
with pepper spray.
In the confusion one protester yelled “Allahu Ackbar!” into the crowd
which panicked nearby tourists who were unsure if it was the sign of an
incoming terrorist attack. Many tourists are said to have fled the
square into nearby restaurants and shops. The aftermath of the chaos led
several business owners who operate outdoor cafes to complain that
their customers had fled without paying their bills.
Vienna police said that the majority of the protest was peaceful
despite the large scale fighting. The Kurds have applied for permission
to hold another rally on Saturday and police are expecting to call up
even more officers to make sure the situation does not escalate out of
Tensions between Turks and Kurds have increased dramatically in the
aftermath of the failed coup in Turkey last month. While President of
Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan has gone on a purge of critics and alleged
coup plotters, many Turks in Europe have seized the opportunity to incite violence with Kurds and supporters of Imam Gulen, who Erdogan asserts was behind the coup attempt.
In Germany several pro-Gulen supports and Kurds have been threatened by
Turkish nationalists like the “Grey Wolves” group and many fear that
the tensions could escalate into full-on ethnic conflict. Kurds and
Turks have clashed in protests in Frankfurt and Switzerland over the past year. In Frankfurt the tensions became so high that the army had to be called in to calm the situation.