Sikh separatists reportedly vandalized Indian consulates in San Francisco, London

Police in both cities said Monday that windows at the High Commission of India in London and at the Consulate General of India in San Francisco were smashed during separate demonstrations by Sikh protesters.

A man was arrested Sunday afternoon on suspicion of a violent disturbance outside the diplomatic mission, the Metropolitan Police in London said, with two security guards suffering minor injuries. In San Francisco, dozens of protesters gathered outside the consulate and smashed windows with flagpoles, said a protester in San Francisco, after skirmishes with embassy workers.

Robert Roica, a San Francisco police officer, said in an email that embassy workers were injured, though he did not say how many or how large the injuries were. He said the suspects fled and were not arrested.

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The US State Department has been working with local authorities to investigate the accident and repair the damage.

“We certainly condemn this vandalism,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Monday during a news briefing.

The protesters belong to a Sikh separatist movement that seeks to establish a new homeland or a separatist state called Khalistan.

The incidents come a day after police in the Indian state of Punjab launched a manhunt to arrest Amritpal Singh, a separatist leader who supports the Khalistan movement. The Press Trust of India news agency reported that his supporters staged protests in a Sikh-majority state over the weekend and 112 people were arrested.

In San Francisco, police officers arrived at the Consulate General on Sunday afternoon to find shattered glass windows. Roica said the workers described the protesters trying to enter the building. He did not immediately provide additional details on how the confrontation began.

On Monday morning, more than a dozen protesters again marched outside the building, which was sheltered behind police barriers and a police vehicle in front.

Gurpreet Singh of Fresno, California, was outside the embassy both days and said the protesters planned to pursue their demands for a separate Sikh state. Singh said he arrived late to see what had happened on Sunday afternoon, but was told that embassy workers had lowered Khalistan flags that had been erected by protesters near the entrance.

Indian consulates in San Francisco (pictured) and London were vandalized during protests by Sikh protesters.

Indian consulates in San Francisco (pictured) and London were vandalized during protests by Sikh protesters. (AP Photo/Jeff Chew)

A worker then shoved, cursed and said, “Don’t put your dirty flag here,” said Veer Singh, another protester who saw the confrontation. This led protesters to start using flagpoles to smash windows, said Gurpreet Singh.

Roica, from the police department, said the protesters were denied entry to the building.

The Consul General of India in San Francisco did not respond to an emailed inquiry for comment.

In London, video footage on social media showed a man unfurling the Indian flag from the balcony of the building, while a crowd appeared below waving bright yellow Gulf banners to cheer him on.

Police said officers were called but the protesters were largely dispersed when they arrived.

“An investigation was launched and a man nearby was arrested shortly thereafter on suspicion of a violent disorder. Investigations are continuing,” the force said.

The Indian government said it had summoned British Deputy High Commissioner Christina Scott in New Delhi to demand an explanation.

“India finds it unacceptable the UK government’s indifference to the security of Indian diplomatic premises and personnel in the UK,” the Indian government said in a statement.

Punjab remained on high alert on Monday as police resumed their search for Singh, whom they accuse of inciting communal tensions.

The Khalistan movement is banned in India, where officials and affiliated groups see it as a threat to national security. But the movement still has some support in the state, as well as abroad, in countries like Canada and the United Kingdom that have large Sikh diasporas.

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On Monday, at least 200 Sikh protesters belonging to India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party held demonstrations outside the British High Commission in New Delhi over the incident in London. The protesters, who said they were also demonstrating against insulting the Indian flag, tried to demonstrate inside the British Embassy but were stopped by the police.

“Some people in the cover of Sikhism are trying to create an impression that we support Khalistan. We are against Khalistan. We don’t want Khalistan,” protester Arvinrpal Singh said.

British Foreign Minister Tariq Ahmed said he was “appalled” by the violence in London.

“This is a totally unacceptable act against the integrity of the Mission and its staff,” he wrote on Twitter. “The UK government will always take the security of the Indian Legation very seriously.”

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London Mayor Sadiq Khan denounced the “violent anarchy and vandalism”.

“There is no place in our city for this kind of behavior,” he said.

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