Anarchy in Barcelona as Lydon is accused of racist attack on singer

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The Independent Culture

The Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon has been branded a bigot after his entourage allegedly assaulted Bloc Party's Kele Okereke, in an "unprovoked and racist" attack at a music festival in Barcelona on Saturday.

According to Okereke and a number of witnesses who were present at the time, including members of Kaiser Chiefs and Foals, the beating was so severe that it left the Bloc Party singer with facial bruising, cuts to the face and body and a split lip.

The fight occurred on Saturday night, backstage at the Summercase festival, and was only broken up by security after the Kaiser Chiefs and Foals members intervened.

Okereke, a fan of Lydon since his teenage years, said he went to speak to the Sex Pistols vocalist, formerly known as Johnny Rotten, to ask if he would ever consider reforming Public Image Ltd, the post-punk outfit created after his first departure from the Sex Pistols in 1978.

Lydon quickly became "intimidating and aggressive", according to a statement released by Okereke yesterday, which added that Lydon's entourage responded with a tirade of racist abuse including the statement: "Your problem is your black attitude."

Okereke was then allegedly set upon by three members of Lydon's crew who reportedly punched and kicked him in the head before starting on the Kaiser Chiefs frontman, Ricky Wilson, and Yannis Philippakis, from Foals, when they tried to mediate.

Okereke, whose parents emigrated from Nigeria to Liverpool in the 1970s, is notoriously media shy but he broke his silence on the incident yesterday and criticised Lydon for failing to halt what he believed was a racist attack.

"It's not an issue of the physical assault, even though it was an unprovoked attack," he said. "It is the fact that race was brought into the matter so readily. Someone as respected and as intelligent as Lydon should know better than to bring race into the equation, or socialise with and encourage those who hold such narrow-minded attitudes. I am disappointed that someone I held with such high regard turns out to be a bigot."

The Foals frontman, Philippakis, said members of his band were handcuffed by police after the fracas and nearly missed a gig in Britain the following day.

Speaking to fans at the Latitude Festival in Suffolk on Sunday, he said: "We were in Spain yesterday and I got into a fight with Johnny Rotten. I don't know why I'm telling you all this, but I was handcuffed and we nearly didn't make it." He went on to dedicate the next song to "Johnny Rotten and his meathead friends".

The Kaiser Chiefs were not willing to comment publicly on the attack yesterday but sources close to the band said Wilson and his bandmates had witnessed the alleged assault and tried to stop it. "Ricky and the others saw what was going on and stepped in to help them," the source said. "I don't think they'll be saying anything publicly though because of the racism element which makes it a difficult situation."

Bloc Party informed police in Barcelona of the attack and have given a statement to British police.

After initially refusing to comment, Lydon said last night that he was, after 30 years, drawing multi-racial audiences. He dismissed the other bands at the festival in Barcelona as "jealous fools", adding that "lies and confusion usually follow". He claimed he had stayed behind after performing to sign autographs for four hours and that "this seems to have sparked jealousy in certain bands".

Addressing the allegations of racist taunts and violence from Okereke, Lydon replied: "Grow up and learn to be a true man. When you have achieved as much as I have, come back and talk to me."

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