BERLIN -- German police said dozens of people, including at least 26 officers, were injured during unrest surrounding an Eritrean cultural festival in the southwestern city of Stuttgart.
Shortly before the event was set to begin 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.
Saturday’s protests were the latest in a string of unrest surrounding Eritrean cultural events in Germany and elsewhere. In July, a clash at an Eritrean festival in the western German city of Giessen left 22 police officers injured. A fight between Eritrean government supporters and opponents in Tel Aviv in early September led to one of the most violent street confrontations among African asylum seekers and migrants in the city’s recent memory.
The event Saturday was organized by several groups considered close to the government of Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki.
Tens of thousands of people have fled Eritrea for Europe, many alleging they were mistreated by Isaias' repressive government. The conflicts surrounding gatherings like Saturday’s highlight the deep divide among members of the Eritrean diaspora, those who remain close to the government and those who have fled to live in exile and strongly oppose Isaias.
On Saturday, Stuttgart police vice president Carsten Hoefler condemned the protesters' actions and said in a statement that “neither the extent nor the intensity of the violence was apparent in advance.”
City officials said there had been no reason to ban the gathering in advance, but that they will take steps to prevent similar unrest in the future.
“We must take decisive action against the emergence of conflicts from other states on German soil,” said Stuttgart Mayor Frank Nopper, according to German news agency dpa.