Swedish police are preparing for more civil unrest at an Eritrean cultural festival being held in Stockholm after more than 50 people were injured and dozens detained in violent scenes on Thursday.
Chaos ensued at the festival held in the Järvafältet in Stockholm as protesters stormed the festival and clashed with the event’s organizers, who they accuse of being a propaganda outlet for the Eritrean government.
Around 1,000 demonstrators stormed through police barriers and began tearing down festival tents, torching vehicles, and attacking organizers with wooden sticks.
Eight people were hospitalized with serious injuries, while one person was arrested on suspicion of arson, local media reported.
“In addition to the 52 injured, 3 police officers are also hurt, but it is unclear whether they have been attacked or whether the injuries occurred during their work itself,” said police spokesperson Daniel Wikdahl.
“I can confirm that one person has been arrested, while many people were taken into custody to prevent disturbances,” added on-duty officer Andreas Dahlin.
Eyewitnesses described the chaotic scenes as the demonstrators sought to disrupt the annual event, which critics claim is used to promote the tyrannical Eritrean government, while event organizers accused the protesters of being “terrorists.”
“It’s total anarchy, I’ve never seen so many policemen in my entire life,” eyewitness Oskar Malmsten told Sweden’s SVT broadcaster.
“You can only see smoke and fire from here,” added SVT reporter Kovan Alshawish at the scene.
The Swedish government criticized those involved in the civil disorder and warned Eritrean nationals given the opportunity to live in Sweden against bringing violence and unrest to the country.
“It is not reasonable for Sweden to be drawn into other countries’ domestic conflicts in this way,” Sweden’s Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer wrote in a statement to the Swedish news agency TT.
“If you flee to Sweden to escape violence, or are on a temporary visit, you must not cause violence here. The police’s resources are needed for other purposes than keeping different groups apart from each other,” he added.