In most places, discretely lingering outside gallery openings with a cup of white wine or a can of beer in hand may earn a disapproving look from passersby, or, at worst, a citation from especially persnickety cops. In Turkey, however, it can lead to violence. Last night, a mob of about 30 people wielding sticks and other weapons attacked attendees outside two separate art receptions at Istanbul’s Beyoğlu district, with the victims claiming they were targeted for drinking in public, according to the Doğan News Agency.
The two gallery events had begun at about 7 p.m. in a local cultural center, a site of much of the city’s nightlife activity. Hundreds of visitors, many drinking outside, were reportedly in attendance at the parties, which were just 100 feet apart. According to a witness quoted by Doğan, the attack began after gallery-goers and locals entered into a dispute that eventually brought dozens of other local residents into the melee, with some smashing the windows of one gallery and spraying pepper spray inside. Five people were hospitalized with injuries from the chemical together with “broken bottles, batons, and knives,” the paper reports, and 40 victims have filed complaints with local police, though only one suspect has been apprehended.
Neighborhood residents told press that there may have been more than alcohol at issue in the attack, with some reporting that attendees had harassed people on the streets in the area. Other witnesses say authorities were “too tolerant” of the attacking mob. Istanbul governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu decried the attack. “We will not allow the repetition of such things,” he is quoted as saying in the Doğan article. “It is our duty to ensure that everyone can go about their business in peace.”