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Germany: 26 officers injured at Eritrean festival — police

July 8, 2023

Police had arrested around 60 people before the event, but officers were still attacked by people attempting to enter the festival.

A group of people in front of police at festival in Giessen, Hessen, central Germany
About 1,000 officers, a water cannon and helicopters are deployed in the cityImage: Helmut Fricke/dpa/picture alliance

At least 26 police officers were injured on Saturday at an Eritrean cultural event in the western German city of Giessen.

Police said they were pelted with items, including stones, bottles and smoke bombs as groups of Eritreans opposed to the African nation's autocratic ruler tried to force their way to the venue.

What did police say about the event?

A thousand police were deployed to the event in Giessen, which has around 80,000 inhabitants. It lies around 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Frankfurt.

From around 5:30 a.m. local time (0330 GMT), police attempted to stop over 100 people from climbing a fence leading to the festival grounds.

People sitting on the ground in front of Eritrean festival in Gießen, Hessen
Police attempted to stop over 100 people from climbing a fence leading to the festival groundsImage: Helmut Fricke/dpa/picture alliance

Police said that they used batons and pepper spray but were unable to prevent the crowd from entering the festival grounds.

The arrested around 60 people before the event.

Around 100 people, some of who had traveled to the event from other countries in Europe, had been taken into custody by Saturday evening.

Around 200 people took part in the rally opposing the festival.

What else do we know about the festival?

This is not the first time central Hesse's Eritrean festival has seen violent incidents.

In August last year, many people were injured at the event after around 100 people attacked helpers and visitors.

Giessen authorities aimed to prohibit organizers from holding the festival this year, but courts saw no basis for such a ban.

The festival's organizers have been accused of being close to Eritrea's authoritarian government under Isaias Afwerki, who has ruled the country since its independence from Ethiopia some 30 years ago.

Those instigating the violence at the event this year are regarded as members of the Eritrean opposition.

Eritrea has been the target of international sanctions due to its involvement in regional conflicts, including over abuses in the war in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region

sdi/lo (dpa, AFP, AP)