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Festival Eritrea Stockholm Representative: Intend to Continue Celebrating

Posted by: Semere Asmelash

Date: Friday, 04 August 2023

Festival Eritrea Stockholm Representative: Intend to Continue Celebrating

 Eritrean cultural festival at Järvafältet in Stockholm

A big fight broke out on Thursday at the Eritrean cultural festival at Järvafältet in Stockholm. People armed themselves with sticks and threw stones at the police and the festival, which they believe are loyal to the regime, and both tents and vehicles were set on fire.

At least 52 people are said to have been injured, some of them seriously. And after an extensive police operation at the scene, around a hundred people have been detained.

- There is chaos in the whole area, said a Gothenburg police officer whose patrol went up as reinforcements.

According to Expressen , upwards of 1,000 counter-protesters must have gathered outside the festival area during Thursday afternoon. This was initially part of a permitted demonstration, but eventually led to some of these allegedly getting through the police cordons.

The counter-demonstrators allegedly threw stones and used sticks as weapons, and both tents and vehicles were set on fire. According to GP's reporter on the spot, there were also fights and commotion in several places around the area.

Several seriously injured

During the evening, four people with serious injuries were treated in hospital. Three more people have been taken to hospital with minor injuries, the Stockholm region wrote in a press release.

"It is a complicated and extensive effort. There are many people in motion at the scene and the total damage situation is still unclear," says Patrik Söderberg, chief physician in Region Stockholm, in the press release.

The department of Regional Special Medical Services (RSSL) went into staff mode due to the violent protests, and according to GP's reporter, injured people must have gathered on a lawn just outside the festival area to be transported to hospital.

A large number of police in riot gear and a police helicopter took part in the operation.

- We are there to stop criminal acts, said Towe Hägg, the police's spokesperson in Stockholm.

Gothenburg police: "Chaos in the entire area"

At 3:30 p.m., the police had managed to collect some of the counter-protesters in a cluster outside the barriers.

- At least some of them. Now we're going on to the center, it's chaos in the whole area, said a Gothenburg police officer whose patrol went up as reinforcements.

GP has also spoken to a representative of the festival who says he is appalled by the violence.

- It's very sad. This is not about politics, it is a meeting place for Swedish triathletes that we have held for 25 years, he says.

According to the representative, the festival organizers must also have known about the plans for a violent demonstration, but without being listened to by the police.

- We knew this would happen. We had a meeting with the police this morning, on our initiative, and told them about the threats we received, but they did not take it seriously. We said this would happen, but they didn't believe us. If the police had been prepared for this and had been able to stop them earlier, it would not have turned out like this, he says and continues:

- We know that we have far-reaching freedom of demonstration in Sweden, and that is great, but it does not include attacking and throwing stones.

However, the Stockholm police are tight-lipped about the alleged meeting.

- We usually collaborate with organizers before events, where we make an assessment based on our experience, competence and knowledge. There we have made the assessment that this festival could be carried out, says police spokesperson Towe Hägg.

Festival representative: Intend to continue celebrating

The representative further stated that they intended to build up the festival area again - already during Thursday evening.

- This is very sad, but it will not stop us. We will rebuild it and continue the celebration.

According to the police, however, it was unclear whether the festival will be able to resume.

- We will look at the legal and judicial aspects of what has happened. It is not impossible that the festival can resume, but it is not something that we have decided yet, says Towe Hägg.

Later in the evening, however, the festival resumed.

Hundreds detained

At 6 p.m., the police announced that around a hundred people have been detained, and that a preliminary investigation into violent riot, arson and serious blue light sabotage has been launched.

A little later, the police stated that 52 people have been treated at designated places for the injured, or have taken themselves to hospital.

In addition, two or three police officers are said to have "hurt themselves" according to the police press spokesman, who does not want to call them injured, however.

In a written comment to SVT , Minister of Justice Gunnar Strömmer (M) says that it is unreasonable for Sweden to be dragged into other countries' domestic conflicts in the way that has now happened.

"If you flee to Sweden to escape violence, or are on a temporary visit, you must not resort to violence here. The police's resources are needed for other purposes than keeping different groups apart from each other," he writes.

As a result of the commotion at the site, traffic disruptions occurred in the area and the E18 was closed at the request of the police. Later in the evening, the road could be reopened to traffic.

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