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Injured Stuttgart 21 protestor could stay blind
Photo: DPA

Injured Stuttgart 21 protestor could stay blind

Published: 06 Oct 2010 11:53 GMT+02:00
Updated: 06 Oct 2010 11:53 GMT+02:00

The picture of Wagner being helped away from the melee, his eyes swollen shut and bleeding, came to symbolise what critics claim was a heavy-handed approach by police trying to break up a demonstration against the controversial revamp of Stuttgart's main train station.

Wagner’s doctor said the patient was currently blind and might never have his sight fully restored.

On Wednesday, news magazine Stern reported on its website that Wagner, a retired engineer had been trying to help some young people who were caught in the stream of water.

In an interview to be published on Thursday, Wagner told the magazine he had raised his arms and waved at police to indicate to them they should stop. But he was hit directly in the face with such force that he lost consciousness.

“It felt like the punch of a giant boxer,” Wagner said.

Click here for a photo gallery of the Stuttgart 21 protest.

Wagner was part of a large crowd of protestors who blockaded the Baden-Württemberg capital’s Schlossgarten last Thursday in an effort to stop developers cutting down trees as part of the Stuttgart 21 rail project. In a dramatic escalation of tensions, at least 116 people were injured when police turned water cannons, pepper spray and batons on the crowd.

Egon Georg Weidle, senior doctor at Stuttgart’s Katharinen Hospital, diagnosed Wagner with “serious eye injuries.”

As well as suffering major bruising on both sides, Wagner's eyelids were torn, and on one side, part of his orbital bone – which encases the eye – was fractured. The retina on the same side also suffered suspected damage.

The lenses of his eyes were damaged and will need to be replaced by artificial lenses.

Wagner was “at the moment blind,” the doctor told Stern. He could not say whether his patient’s sight would ever be fully restored.

Wagner has launched legal action against Baden-Württemberg’s Interior Ministry for causing bodily injury. He told the magazine he did not understand “how you can perpetrate such an inferno against the Stuttgart people.”

The Local/dw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

12:16 October 6, 2010 by delvek
I feel for this guy but when your squaring off against police and provoke, right or wrong, you accept the potential result.

This guy doesnt deserve to lose his sight, I do hope he recovers.
12:20 October 6, 2010 by pepsionice
It's an odd explanation of things....first, Sterns tells us that he was helping some young people caught in the steam of water....as though he was a bystander or just a helpful guy on the street. In fact, Stern writes that he was waving to the police that "they should stop".

Then Stern lets you know that he was part of the large crowd of protesters in the first place. Something about Stern's account leaves your imagination open.

For the water cannon to have this much effect....you had to be standing fairly close but I doubt that anyone wants to admit that now.

The lesson learned? Cities should just fold up and allow demonstrators and rioters to run city government. It's the only safe way to conduct day-to-day affairs. The sooner that Germans learn this lesson...the better their lives will be.
13:10 October 6, 2010 by mbowyer
The water canon ripped open his eye lids, tore off the lens, and fractured his skull?? - Thats some phenomenal power for a jet of water. Better to stay at home.
13:57 October 6, 2010 by dankworth
Of this man deserves to have his eyes torn out, how dare he protest plans that had already been decided upon by administrators. Maybe he was under the illusion that he was living in a society that respects free speech. Doesn't he realize that he was objecting to plans that had ALREADY BEEN APPROVED?
14:08 October 6, 2010 by dcgi
++goggles

I would imagine there is a minimum safe distance that they're allowed to fire use the water cannons and for him to find out if they've misused them that day.
14:22 October 6, 2010 by delvek
Where does it say you have a right to free speech. If there is such a right he didnt get faceblasted for his free speech he got faceblasted because the police at some point percieved some sort of threat to themselves or the public interest.
14:48 October 6, 2010 by dankworth
Well of course the police are always right. If he had gotten his head torn off he would have deserved that too?
18:53 October 6, 2010 by Landmine
If you go up against the police, you can get hurt. What part of this don't the people who are participating on the protest understand? Stuttgart 21 is a done deal, no amount of people in the park is going to change a ca 10 billion euro deal -Hellooooo... The time to act was two years ago, not now... Wake up you morons, you are done....
19:28 October 6, 2010 by auniquecorn
That should be enough to warn all the protesters that they are breaking the law by not disbanding when the police told them too.

when police turned water cannons, pepper spray and batons on the crowd,I´m sure the crowd was most likely throwing rocks at the police first.
14:55 October 8, 2010 by Talonx
The police who took part in this and their superiors shouldn't have showed up with weapons, that was the initial escalation.

This was a popular protest and has been since 2 years ago, this had nothing to do with people on the left or the right, everyone was/is taking part.

The police were fighting for the wrong side. Do they protect the community or do they protect those invading and selling out the community? For as long as they do not protect the people in their community, I wish them the worst.
21:04 October 8, 2010 by HarryR
Rimini,

I think you're a self-indulgent idiot.

The people at the demo did not have a choice of whether to see the awful sight of a co-protestor so injured. Nobody enjoys seeing such images. Isn't that the whole point? The Local did it's job of informing it's readership of a significant event in Germany.

The right of people to protest is undermined when the police action is so severe. Very probably other people will be fearful to risk protest about other issues in future. This is how totalitarian govts maintain their grip by instilling fear. Your response is to witter on at length about the local's policy of showing a shocking photo rather than that the photo had cause to be taken! Shame on you! Now shut up. Adults are talking about serious matters.

Moving on,

I don't understand the actual issue at all. An infrastructure project putting money in to the local economy to improve rail links across Europe is the sort of thing that the UK is having to cut right now. Clearly, local feelings are running high and there are issues I'm not aware of or emotionally attached to.

I _am_ impressed that such broad range of people are coming together to protest. These are ordinary people of all ages and backgrounds rather than professional taunters of the state: that's why the police tactics are so appalling. The immediacy of escalation to police violence in the absence of genuine threat to their safety. Instead of containing the situation and letting it run it's course they went to war against their fellow citizens. Why? Just to express state power?

I don't even care if the blinded guy threw a stone. The police were easily distinguishable from the protesters by the plentiful protective gear they are wearing at public expense. If they wanted to arrest any stone thrower they could have easily sent out a snatch squad to arrest them, rather than fire a powerful water cannon indescriminately at close range and squirt pepper spray directly into the eyes of whoever was in front of them.

The impression I get is similar to my recollection of the soviet suppression of protests in Tiblisi, Goergia in the final days of the Soviet Union. Or security maintained by Hell's Angels rather than by a professional, modern police force in an EU country.

If the Stuttgart police is a disciplined force and their response was pre-approved I hope & expect that an enquiry will reveal those responsible and their rational for their decisions so that it's available for academic and peer review.

You know; like in a democracy.
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