Violence erupted at a festival for Toronto’s Eritrean community on Saturday as participants clashed with demonstrators in exchanges that sent at least nine people to the hospital. Eight people have non-life-threatening injuries while one person has serious injuries after being stabbed, according to a report by Cbc.ca. Police did not provide details on how the eight individuals were injured.
Protests against the Festival
Skirmishes broke out at around 10 a.m. at Earlscourt Park, where Festival Eritrea was taking place. The tensions between the festival participants and protesters continued throughout the day. The protestors, who were of Eritrean descent themselves, claimed they were demonstrating against the festival’s support of the government of Eritrea.
However, Yordanos Tesfamariam, the organizer of the Eritrea Festival, disputed these claims and called them fabricated lies. Eritrea has been criticized by human rights groups for being one of the most repressive countries in the world. The country, which gained independence from Ethiopia thirty years ago, has been under the leadership of President Isaias Afwerki, who has never held an election. Many residents have fled the country due to conditions such as forced military conscription.
Chaotic Scenes and Clash of Beliefs
Rora Asgodom, a witness, described the chaotic scenes at the festival, with protesters setting things on fire and destroying festival installations. Multiple people were injured and had to be rushed to the hospital. The protesters dispersed temporarily but later returned to the scene.
Dozens of Toronto police officers responded to the chaos, and they remained at the scene for hours to restore peace. Asgodom expressed frustration at the assumption by the protesters that supporting the festival meant supporting everything they were against, leading to violent clashes.
Police Action and Efforts to Maintain Peace
Early in the morning, Toronto police received reports of a person carrying a knife, followed by fights breaking out in the park and tents being set on fire. Nine individuals, including one with serious injuries, were taken to the hospital. As the day progressed, around 200 demonstrators gathered opposite an equal number of festival-goers, with police forming a barrier between them.
By 5 p.m., the protesters had blockaded the intersection of St. Clair Avenue West and Caledonia Park Road, causing traffic and public transit disruptions. They parked a truck with a screen displaying videos, one of which read “cancel the festival of hate.” Alem Hagos, a protester, stated that they were defending themselves and claimed that the police falsely told them they would shut down the event.
Protests Beyond Toronto
Toronto is not the only city to witness protests against Eritrean festivals in recent days. In a Stockholm suburb, a similar Eritrea-themed cultural festival turned violent when approximately 1,000 protesters opposing the African country’s government stormed the event. The protesters set booths and vehicles on fire, leading to injuries among attendees. This incident resulted in multiple detentions by the police.
– Violence erupted at Toronto’s Eritrean festival, resulting in nine people being sent to the hospital.
– Protesters clashed with festival participants, opposing the festival’s support of the Eritrean government.
– Eritrea, known for its repressive regime, has seen numerous residents flee the country due to conditions such as forced military conscription.
– Toronto police intervened to restore peace and faced challenges as the situation escalated throughout the day.
– Similar protests against Eritrean festivals have been reported in other cities, including a violent incident in Stockholm.