Clashes between Eritrean government supporters and opponents at a cultural festival in Germany has left dozens injured, including at least 26 police officers
Dozens of People Injured in Violence at Eritrean Cultural Festival in Germany
Police in the southwestern German city of Stuttgart on Sunday said dozens of people, including at least 26 officers were injured amid unrest surrounding an Eritrean cultural festival.
Shortly before the event was set to begin on Saturday afternoon, around 200 protesters gathered in the area outside and began throwing stones, bottles, and other items at police officers and participants of the event. Six of the 26 injured police officers were treated in a hospital for their injuries, police said. Four event participants and two protesters were also injured, according to police, although information wasn´t immediately available about the severity of their injuries.
The clash was the latest in a string of incidents at such events in Germany and elsewhere, with fights breaking out between Eritrean government supporters and opponents.
Police said they took 228 people into custody with police citing "massive violence" between the two groups.
The police force described those attending as supportive of the dictatorial regime that rules the Horn of African country. There were roughly 80 to 90 people at the cultural event.
Some 300 officers were deployed to deal with several hundred opponents of President Isaias Afwerki's regime who came out to protest the event.
Protesters were assigned an area to demonstrate, but they headed for the meeting venue, police said. The demonstrators then charged at those participating at the event, throwing metal rods and rocks at the police.
Police officers used pepper spray and batons to break up the crowd. Participants at the venue were moved to a safer location under police protection. Officers took down notes of those protesting. The event was all but over in two hours.
Stuttgart police vice president Carsten Höfler condemned the protesters' action saying that "neither the extent nor the intensity of the violence was apparent in advance."
City officials said there was no reason to ban the event in advance, but that they will take steps to prevent similar unrest in the future.
The fight is the latest to break out at festivals to celebrate Eritrea's 30 years of independence. Eritrea has been ruled by Afwerki in a one-party dictatorship since 1993.
Those who fled the country said they fled danger and persecution so celebrations have angered them. Rights groups also say that Afwerki is one of the harshest and most repressive dictators in the world.
Eritrea has neither a legislature nor a judiciary, according to a report by the Human Rights Watch. It also has no independent civil society or media outlets.
Similar clashes were reported in Tel Aviv, Israel, in early September, with the event accounting for one of the most violent clashes among African asylum seekers and migrants in the city's recent memory.
In July, clashes between supporters and opponents erupted in the western German city of Giessen, which is not far from Frankfurt. The clash left 26 police officers injured.
Analysts have previously said that events if they're organized at the Eritrean Embassy, as was the case in Israel generate funds for the heavily embargoed Eritrean government and serve to exert pressure on Eritreans who are far away from their homeland.