ERITREA Breaking News

11 injured at Eritrean event protested all day in Edmonton

Nearly a dozen people were hurt at an Eritrean-themed event in Edmonton on Saturday during a clash with a group who said they were protesting the Eritrean government.

Edmonton police monitored the group of protesters all day as they moved across the city in the shadow of the festival.

Twice, Edmonton Police Service had dozens of officers in riot gear controlling crowds.

Lambros Kyriakakos, the chairman of the Coalition of Eritrean Canadian Communities and Organizations, said he helped organize the annual Eritrean community festival that draws people from across western Canada.

“We’ve always gathered 40 years peacefully. This year? No. We have a challenge,” he told CTV News Edmonton that afternoon in the Rosslyn neighbourhood as police in riot gear dispersed the remaining crowd.

He said the protesters attacked some in the festival crowd with sticks.

“Few of our people were hit,” Kyriakakos said.

He claimed any violence by festival attendees was self defence. 

Lambros Kyriakakos, the chairman of the Coalition of Eritrean Canadian Communities and Organizations, speaks to CTV News Edmonton on Aug. 19, 2023, after an Eritrean festival which he helped organize was protested by a group. Eleven people were hurt in a fight between festival attendees and protesters.

One of the protesters denied that his side started the fight.

Michael Asfha, from Winnipeg, Man., said his group was there to “oppose the regime government, or the regime, in Eritrea.”

“From that side, they started to hit us and we defend ourselves,” Asfha told CTV News Edmonton.

One person who was “assaulted with an object” was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries, Edmonton Police Service said.

Police counted 10 others with minor injuries.


According to EPS, the festival kicked off in west Edmonton Saturday morning. A spokesperson said police had worked with both the organizers of the festival as well as a “demonstration” taking place in the same area.

But, as “rising tensions became evident and in the interest of public safety,” EPS and the City of Edmonton cancelled the festival’s permit, EPS told CTV News Edmonton.

EPS says both the festival attendees and demonstrators left the area.

Around 11 a.m., the police service learned both groups had moved to the Rosslyn neighbourhood in north Edmonton, near 132 Avenue and 113A Street.

That is where “an altercation took place between both groups” and the 11 people were hurt, EPS said.

Edmonton police watch crowds at a Rosslyn park on Aug. 19, 2023, after violence broke out at a protested Eritrean community event.

Dozens of police units were called in to break it up. Officers separated the groups and remained on scene until everyone left.

Hours later, the protesting group set up in front of Maharaja Banquet Hall in south Edmonton.

Police closed the area and, appearing to use gas at one point, marched the crowd to the other side of 93 Street.

More than 100 police – equipped with masks, shields, batons and helmets – as well as canine units and two armoured trucks were on scene at that time.

Edmonton police stand on 93 Street in south Edmonton on Aug. 19, 2023, keeping in place of group of people who say they were there to protest the Eritrean government. (CTV News Edmonton / Sean McClune)

They remained on scene until 8 p.m.

Once the crowds and police were cleared, damage was visible on the Maharaja Banquet Hall’s storefront, as well as a vehicle parked in its lot. It is not known when the damage was caused or by who.

As of late Saturday afternoon, no arrests had been made and police were still investigating.


Asfha told CTV News Edmonton the festival that had been organized “doesn’t represent all Eritreans.” 

He and his group wore shirts and carried flags that were light blue in colour and featured an olive branch – the flag used in the 1950s during the Federation of Ethiopia and Eritrea. 

He said the flag used by the festival – Eritrea’s current flag – represents a “dictatorship.” 

Michael Asfha was a part of a group that protested an Eritrean-themed event in Edmonton on Aug. 19, 2023, during which 11 people were hurt in a clash between attendees and protesters.

Eritrea’s president, Isaias Afwerki, has not held an election since becoming president three decades ago, when the country won independence from Ethiopia. Millions of residents have fled the country in order to avoid conditions such as forced military conscription.

Kyriakakos said it was a mistake to think of the festival as anything other than a celebration of culture and community. 

“[Eritreans] are co-suffering with the unjust and unfair pressure that is happening to our people. And because they,” he said, referring to the protesters, “are considering we are part of that, unfortunately, the advocates of human rights, they came with a goal and hit people, broke cars, terrorized children.” 

Nine people were hurt when violence broke out between attendees and protesters at an Eritrean festival in Toronto at the beginning of August. People were also hurt at recent Eritrean events in Germany and Sweden

Those events made festival attendees wary, Kyriakakos said. 

“People are very scared they are going to hurt their children, families and their wives. And that was the main reason there was a defensive position. Not an aggressive position,” he said. 

“It’s not fair to put the aggressor and the demonstrator together with a peaceful participant. The peaceful participant may be acting in self defense.” 

The organizer said he warned police of the potential for trouble ahead of Edmonton’s event. 

EPS said in a statement: “As with many events and public demonstrations, police worked closely with organizers of both groups ahead of this event to support citizens in their right to peaceful assembly and ensure public safety for both festival and demonstration attendees.

“The EPS continues to work closely with both groups to assist with facilitating peaceful interactions at future events.”

With files from CTV Edmonton’s Sean McClune, Nav Sangha, John Hanson, and The Canadian Press 

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