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Confrontation in Stuttgart: Violent riots broke out at a meeting of Eritrean associations

Photo: Jason Cheplyakov / dpa

In Stuttgart, violent riots broke out at an Eritrea event. Up to 200 people attacked participants in the event and police officers with stones, bottles and wooden slats, a police spokesman told the German Press Agency on Saturday. 24 police officers were injured, two of them seriously. This was reported by a police spokesman on Saturday evening. Four people have been arrested so far. Videos on social media show men attacking police officers with wooden slats and bottles.

200 people had gathered on Saturday afternoon in the Roman fort for an event of the Association of Eritrean Associations in Stuttgart and the surrounding area, as a police spokesman reported. It is an information event. The clubs sympathize with the dictatorial government in Eritrea, according to the police spokesman. According to the police, opponents of the regime met in small groups at Bad Cannstatt train station and Stuttgart main station and made their way to the venue. There, the situation escalates rapidly.

The police are flying in additional forces

The officers defend themselves against the attackers with batons and pepper spray and try to separate the groups, keeping the attackers out while the event is still going on inside the building. The roads around the Roman fort are closed. Emergency services are flown in by helicopter and brought in from surrounding presidiums. For hours, the police reported skirmishes and a confusing situation. In the evening, it is said that the situation is largely stable. The police surround 170 men to record personal details. They are all accused of a serious breach of the peace.

From the point of view of the organizers of the Stuttgart Eritrea meeting, the police underestimated the situation. "We asked for police protection and said what these people are capable of," says Salomon T., who organized the event and does not want to be quoted by his full name. The event was a "seminar with information about Eritrea". 70 people had to wait in the hall during the attacks, says Salomon T.

"It was very dangerous."

A police spokesman countered that there had always been disturbances at such events in the past, but that they had no knowledge that they would be so massive and intense.

Valentino Tosto runs an ice cream parlour right on the corner of the action. He is shocked in the evening. "This is very bad for us," he said. The rioters would have taken away chairs and displays. He says, "It was very dangerous."

Eritrea, with its three million inhabitants, is located in northeastern Africa on the Red Sea and is largely isolated internationally. Since independence from Ethiopia 30 years ago, won in a decades-long war, President Isaias Afewerki has ruled the country in a one-party dictatorship. Other parties are banned, freedom of expression and freedom of the press are severely restricted. There is no parliament, independent courts, or civil society organisations. In addition, there is a strict system of military service and forced labour, from which many people flee abroad. There are always conflicts between supporters and opponents of the regime.

In July, riots broke out at an Eritrea festival in Giessen, Hesse, with at least 26 injured police officers, when opponents of the event attacked security forces with stones and bottles and detonated smoke bombs. Among other things, the officers had used batons against them. The organizers of the event in Giessen were close to the controversial leadership of the East African country. In Stockholm, there were violent riots at an Eritrea festival in August, with more than 50 injured.

There are already initial reactions from politicians to the incidents in Stuttgart. For example, Federal Minister of Agriculture Cem Ödzemir (Greens) wrote on Platform X that the perpetrators of violence must be brought to justice quickly.