There are nasty, brutal scenes that take place in broad daylight in the middle of Stuttgart: dozens of men throw stones and bottles at police officers and attack the officers with batons. They scream loudly. A group chases an officer who wants to arrest one of them. There are too many for the police officer – he has to escape. On Saturday there were massive riots in the state capital, ten police officers were injured and four people were arrested. It’s a kind of proxy conflict on the streets of Stuttgart: opponents of the regime in Eritrea stand against supporters of the dictatorship – and the violence is primarily directed against the police.

It is not the first time: In July there were riots at an Eritrea festival in Giessen, Hesse, with at least 26 injured police officers when opponents of the event attacked security forces by throwing stones and bottles and setting off smoke bombs. The organizers of the event in Giessen were close to the controversial leadership of the East African country. The violence made national headlines. And in Stockholm in August there were violent riots at an Eritrea festival with more than 50 people injured.

So now the Swabian metropolis of Stuttgart. 200 people gathered in the Roman fort on Saturday afternoon for an event organized by the Association of Eritrean Clubs in Stuttgart and the surrounding area, a police spokesman reported. It is an information event. According to the police spokesman, the clubs sympathized with the government in Eritrea.

According to the police, opponents of the regime meet in small groups at Bad Cannstatt train station and Stuttgart main station and make their way to the venue. The situation escalates quickly there. Up to 200 people attack police officers, throwing stones and hitting them with wooden slats. It remains to be determined who threw the first stone, but the event was the main attraction, says the police spokesman.

The officers defend themselves against the attackers with batons and pepper spray and try to separate the groups and keep the attackers out while the event is still ongoing in the building. The streets around the Roman fort are closed. Emergency services are flown in by helicopter and called in from surrounding headquarters. The police reported skirmishes and a confusing situation for hours. In the evening it was said that the situation was largely stable. The police surround 170 men to record their personal details. They are all accused of serious breach of the peace.

The African country of Eritrea is largely isolated internationally. It is a one-party dictatorship, with no parliament or independent courts. Conflicts between supporters and opponents of the regime continue to arise in Europe.

From the perspective of the organizers of the Eritrea meeting in Stuttgart, the police underestimated the situation. “We asked police protection and said what these people are capable of,” says Salomon T., who organized the event and did not want to be quoted with his full name. The event was a “seminar with information about Eritrea”. 70 people had to wait in the hall during the attacks, says Salomon T.

A police spokesman replied that there had always been disruptions at such events in the past, but there was no knowledge that they would be so massive and intense. But the situation was not as bad as in Hesse: “We are expressly not talking about Giessen 2.0.”

Valentino Tosto runs an ice cream parlor right on the corner of the action. In the evening he appears shocked. “This is very bad for us,” he said. The rioters took away chairs and stands. He says: “It was very dangerous.”