On Sunday they lay carefully lined up, the police publicly displaying the objects that became weapons and projectiles. Long wooden slats, partly interspersed with nails. Thick branches, stones as big as a head. The Stuttgart deputy police chief stands by in shock. “This is just a small excerpt from what happened yesterday with a certain degree of tragedy,” he says. “Everything was done to expose us to massive injuries.” The constitutional state could in no way tolerate this.
A day after the riots, the police invited the public to the crime scene and held a press conference in the open air, where the violence had escalated just a few hours before. Traces of the devastation can still be seen in the Stuttgart Roman fort, such as building barriers and concrete weights that were torn out. The deputy police chief speaks of an “excess of violence”.
But what happened? On Saturday, members of Eritrean clubs, around 90 in number, gather in the Roman fort. You rented an event room from the city. The city says it was not a meeting that required registration. According to the organizer, it was an information meeting and was supposed to be about the safety of the members. The Eritrean clubs, the police report, are close to the country's government in Africa - an isolated one-party dictatorship, without parliament or independent courts. Freedom of expression and freedom of the press are severely restricted. There is also a strict military service and forced labor system, which many Eritreans are fleeing abroad.
The event in Stuttgart brings government opponents to the scene. According to the police, more than 200 opposition members are traveling, mainly from the Stuttgart area, but also from Switzerland and Giessen. There were also riots surrounding a similar event in the Hessian city a few weeks ago. The violence made national headlines.
Now it hits Stuttgart. The government opponents are assigned a place to protest, but they refuse to go there - and instead head to the Roman fort. The situation escalates quickly there. The men use slats, poles, bottles and stones and attack participants in the event, but above all the police officers who want to protect them. The police initially had far too few officers on the street; the event was initially only secured with 20 police officers. They later said that they had not expected such a level of violence. Additional forces are quickly requested and reinforcements are even flown in by helicopter.
The officers use batons and pepper spray against the rioters. The streets around the Roman fort are closed. There has been talk of skirmishes for hours, with small groups repeatedly trying to get to the building. The participants of the event will be escorted from the site with police protection in the evening. Finally, the police surround almost all of the suspects and drive the groups together. Personal details are determined and expulsions are issued until late at night. 228 suspects are now being investigated. Accusation: serious breach of the peace. Only one of them is in prison, all the others are free again.
The organizer of the Eritrea meeting in Stuttgart made serious accusations against the police on Sunday. The authorities were warned in advance, but the police took the matter lightly, criticizes Johannes Russom from the Association of Eritrean Associations. The police replied that such events had often been held, but that they were largely peaceful.
“These are not opponents of the government, they are violent criminals,” Russom says of the attackers. If they want to fight against the Eritrean government, they should go there. You have the legitimate right to hold such events, says Russom. The next meeting will take place next week, he announces.