The Eritrean government’s attempt to hold a festival in Giessen ended in chaos, after protests from young Eritreans, furious that the event was celebrating a regime they had risked their lives to flee from.
Opposition to the festival organised by the ruling PFDJ had been building for weeks, with a petition calling for it to be cancelled.
The Eritrean opposition took the issue to court, but were unable to persuade the authorities to have the event called off, despite pointing out that it would involve “hate speech” against members of the community.
And so the event went ahead on Saturday. But not without challenge.
Eritrean youth were determined to resist what they saw as a celebration of the Eritrean dictatorship which had forced them to risk their lives to flee their own country.
What began as a peaceful protest outside the festival site grew in size and intensity, as other opposition groups joined them.
Clashes broke out, and police from across the region were called [see below] as they feared the events would get out of control and there could be serious injuries.
Finally, the PFDJ gave in.
The organisers told the festival goers that they had been instructed to halt the event by the police.
They said the protesters outnumber the police’s capacity to protect the event and that the police were unable to take responsibility for the festival’s safety.
This caused considerable grumbling from the PFDJ supporters, who can be heard on the Facebook video saying they had came all the way from Holland for the festival.
Source: Police press release
Gießen: The police accompanied two events in Gießen today (08/20/2022). In addition to an Eritrea cultural festival in the Hessenhallen, a meeting with rallies and a procession, which was thematically directed against this cultural event, was registered with the city of Giessen.
Around 5 p.m., a larger number of participants left this gathering. They climbed over the fence of the Hessenhallen and attacked the helpers who were there setting up the festival. According to initial findings, the attackers used sticks, iron bars and knives. Police forces deployed there were stoned – the forces used batons and pepper spray against the attackers. A hitherto unknown number of people and police forces suffered minor and sometimes serious injuries.
Rescue workers took over their first aid.
Police forces from the police headquarters in Central Hesse, Frankfurt am Main, North Hesse, East Hesse, South-East Hesse and South Hesse as well as the Hessian riot police were brought together in Gießen.
The forces arrested several people provisionally.
The culture festival was canceled by police order.
Guido Rehr, spokesman
Questions please contact:
Central Hesse Police Headquarters
Press and Public Relations
Telephone: 0641-7006 2040
Source: FFH Radio
Large-scale police operation in Gießen in the evening. In the run-up to the Eritrea culture festival, there were massive riots.
The attackers were participants in a meeting against the culture festival, the Gießen police said. Accordingly, a larger protest group climbed over the fence to the Hessenhallen and attacked helpers who were busy setting up the festival. Iron rods and knives were apparently also used. Police officers deployed there had stones thrown at them. They responded by using batons and pepper spray.
In addition to the festival helpers, a few police officers were also slightly injured. There is currently no overview of how many people were injured. The police speak of an unknown number of mostly slightly injured people.
Police needed massive reinforcements
Police forces from the police headquarters in Central Hesse, Frankfurt am Main, North Hesse, East Hesse, South-East Hesse and South Hesse as well as the Hessian riot police were brought together in Gießen. The forces arrested several people provisionally. They were later released, but investigations are now underway into allegations of breach of the peace and assault.
Festival has been controversial for years
The culture festival was canceled by police order, and the counter-demonstration was ended by the organizer after the incident. There are regular protests because of the festival. Critics see it as a propaganda event for the dictatorial state.