At the controversial Eritrea Festival in Gießen, 26 officials were injured. According to the police, demonstrators attacked with stones, bottles and smoke bombs, among other things. About 100 preliminary investigations were initiated.
Violence, injured police officers and damage to property: At the beginning of the controversial Eritrea festival, the riots feared by the police and the city broke out in Giessen on Saturday. “Colleagues were massively attacked, stones thrown, bottles thrown, smoke bombs,” said a police spokesman. According to reports from the evening, 26 emergency services were injured.
Batons, pepper spray and a water cannon
The officers used batons and pepper spray, and a water cannon was ready. A police helicopter and a drone were also deployed. The large-scale operation should continue on Sunday.
Several hundred people were checked throughout the day, the police said in the evening. A large number of them were given places. About 100 preliminary investigations, including for bodily harm and serious breach of the peace, have been initiated. Some of the around 100 people who were taken into custody came from other European countries.
According to the police, there were groups of potentially violent people in different places in the city, some of whom were also detained, for example in front of the Gießener Hessenhallen as the festival venue. According to the police, there were around 2,000 participants at the festival in the Hessenhallen on Saturday.
A rally against the festival began in the city center on Saturday afternoon. The police blocked roads in different places in the city. According to the police, there was a dispute with a large number of participants at the Neustädter Tor.
Location quieter in the afternoon
There were also threats to drivers. Objects were also thrown from the Heuchelheim Bridge and cars were damaged. Employees of a shop near the Hessenhallen also reported that windows had been smashed by passing cars.
According to police, the situation calmed down on Saturday afternoon. Police escorted some of the demo participants to their buses after the meeting.
A total of around 400 people were checked during the day, the police reported in the evening. Around 100 people were taken into custody, and dozens were sent off. Two men, a 36 and 25 year old Eritrean, were arrested as wanted criminals. Around 100 preliminary investigations had been initiated.
Because of the dynamic situation, the police requested hundreds of other forces from all over Hesse in addition to the more than 1,000 officers on duty. Loudspeaker squads tried to influence people who might want to try to break through barriers.
The police also warned not to spread fake news on social media. Among other things, there was talk of a person being killed in chats, but this was a false report.
Bus service stopped
Up to 2,500 visitors were expected to attend the festival on Saturday and Sunday. Two counter-demonstrations, each with 300 participants, were registered for Friday and Saturday afternoons.
In the center of Gießen, there were traffic disruptions due to the large-scale operation. Bus services were suspended on Saturday. The police recommended avoiding the urban area and driving around extensively.
Beuth demands appointment of Eritrea’s ambassador
A first demo with around 250 participants had already taken place on Friday evening. According to the police, a man called for violent actions and was taken into custody. At around 8:20 p.m., the elevator was stopped and dissolved.
Arrests had already been made on Friday night. According to the police, it was about this Violations of the weapons ban zone set up by the Gießen district or violations of issued residence bans.
Hesse’s Interior Minister Peter Beuth (CDU) criticized that Giessen had been “made the scene of Eritrean conflicts” and called on the federal government to summon the Eritrean ambassador. It must be made clear to the Eritrean government that Eritrean conflicts should not be fought on German soil. “Our police officers are not the buffer stop for conflicts in third countries.” He wished the injured officers a speedy recovery.
In the conflict surrounding the festival, critics and supporters of the Eritrean regime living in Germany are irreconcilably opposed. Officially, it is a cultural event, registered by the Central Council of Eritreans in Germany, which is considered to be close to the government.
One-party dictatorship in Eritrea
Eritrea, with around three million inhabitants, is located in north-east Africa on the Red Sea and is largely isolated internationally. President Isayas Afewerki has ruled in a one-party dictatorship since Ethiopia fought for independence 30 years ago. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are severely restricted. There is no parliament, independent courts or civil society organizations. In addition, there is a strict military service and forced labor system, from which many people flee abroad.
According to the city, the organizers of the festival speak of a family celebration. In addition to music and food, the program also included political speeches. A city spokeswoman said it was not known what the speeches were about. The festival moved from Frankfurt to Gießen more than ten years ago, probably because of the central location of the city in central Hesse and the hall suitable for the festival.
Opponents accuse the organizers of making propaganda for the regime and ruler Isaias Afewerki and also of collecting donations for it. Already in the past year there had been violent riots at the festival.
City application denied
The Hessian Administrative Court (VGH) had rejected two complaints by the city of Giessen against the festival on Friday. According to the VGH, the organizer cannot be held responsible for threats of violence in social media. The security concept is sufficient.
The Gießen regulatory office also had the festival in mind violent protests at the previous event want to ban last summer.