Police in the German city of Stuttgart stated on Sunday that they had arrested a total of 228 rioters following unrest near an Eritrean cultural festival the previous afternoon. Authorities said rioters gathered and attacked festivalgoers and police officers, adding that 27 officers were injured while dispersing the riot.
The cultural festival was organized by an Eritrean cultural association. All those arrested have Eritrean citizenship or are of Eritrean descent. The German police believe they are members of the Eritrean opposition, who are critical of current Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki. According to police, most suspects came to Stuttgart from surrounding districts, and 63 of them came from Switzerland. Police initiated investigations on suspicion of (serious) breach of the peace, physical assault, damage to property, (grievous) bodily harm and theft.
Emergency services from Stuttgart, Ludwigsburg, Aalen, Einstaz, the Federal Police and the rescue service were deployed to put down the riot. In addition to reporting what happened, Stuttgart Police Vice President Carsten Höfler added that neither the extent nor the intensity of the violence could be predicted.
Mayor of Stuttgart Frank Nopper and Höfler both condemned the violence. Nopper also opined that both the German and Swiss judiciary should consider whether expulsion and deportation are necessary for noncitizen offenders.
This is not the first instance of unrest surrounding an Eritrean cultural festival that has happened in Germany. In July, another clash took place in Giessen, a western German city, where German police initiated 125 criminal proceedings, most of which were charges of serious breach of the peace. Outside of Germany, the same tensions can be observed in the Canadian cities of Calgary, Toronto and Edmonton. Calgary police chief Mark Neufeld stated that a clash in that city earlier this month was a planned, premeditated, targeted attack and the largest violent event in Calgary.
Many Eritreans have fled from their country to the West since the outbreak of conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region in November 2020. The Eritrean government implemented an intensive forced conscription campaign to support its military operation in the conflict and punished the family members of draft dodgers, according to Human Rights Watch. The international community called upon Eritrean forces to leave Tigray in August after Ethiopia, Tigray and Eritrea concluded a formal peace agreement in November 2022.