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View from the ground: Resilient Stuttgart will ‘move on’ following riots

Stuttgart local Michael Stuchbery shares his views on the violent Saturday rioting which shocked the country, and led to condemnation from politicians including Chancellor Angela Merkel.

View from the ground: Resilient Stuttgart will 'move on' following riots
Passersby at a shoe store in Stuttgart on Sunday night following the riots. Photo: DPA

Let's be clear from the outset: What happened in Stuttgart in the early hours of Sunday morning was a terrible thing. Shops and property were damaged in rioting, and nineteen police were injured. 

READ ALSO: Shock in Germany as hundreds run riot in Stuttgart

Then again, it wasn't the start of the race war, or #BlackLivesMatter agitation so many on the fringes desperately wanted it to be. 

Over the course of Sunday, reports began to solidify and we had a better idea of what happened. During a police crackdown on the selling and smoking of cannabis on Schlossplatz, violence erupted. Young men began to attack police, throwing bottles and later, smashing store windows. 

'Create, don't destroy'

The city and police were swift to condemn the violence, and judging by the reactions of Stuttgarters as I walked down Konigstraße Sunday afternoon, so did the vast majority of locals – including those with an “Migrationshintergrund' (immigrat background).

The damage was quickly dealt with two. The four or five shops that I noted had been targeted had been boarded up, glass swept into neat piles.

Someone had taped 'Create, don't destroy' across many of these. Police were present, but not in especially great numbers, and certainly not in the tactical riot gear they'd been wearing the night before. 

A shop with a 'Create, don't destroy' sign on Monday. Photo: DPA

With more evidence emerging, it appears what happened was a failure on a number of fronts. With the coronavirus pandemic shutting most bars and clubs, a lot of young people have moved their partying outside.

Furthermore, the lockdown and economic turbulence have led to increased tensions – tempers are flaring. The city and the police in particular are still adjusting to this change in situation, and quite understandably. 

A resilient place

Lessons will be learned, and Stuttgart will move on. It's a resilient place, and it's also an open, welcoming one. As the home of Bosch, Daimler, Porsche and many other iconic companies, it has to be.

Stuttgarters are fiercely proud of the '0711' – the city's nickname taken from its area code – and a great deal of work will be done to make sure it doesn't happen again. 

What is dismaying is seeing how the event has already been spun by the Far Right, both locally and globally. Never mind that half those arrested were white Germans, the riot is being spun as a failure of 'diversity' or proof that migrants can't integrate. 

I'm going to be real here: compared to what I have seen in the centre of English towns on a Sunday night, or in some American cities after a football win, Stuttgart's riot struggles to register. It simply wasn't on the same scale as what we're seeing around the world. 

Perhaps the thing about Sunday morning's violence that is so shocking, is that it happened in the first place. It's simply not something that happens around here – previous protests against the notorious Stuttgart 21 rail project aside.

READ ALSO: Stuttgart 21 rail project to cost an extra billion euros

That's not to say that the city is perfect, but it does seem to work in a way that many don't. 

Today, I'll probably head down to Schlossplatz to have a coffee and watch Stuttgarters do their thing. It's pretty much a hobby around here, people watching.

The city will pick itself up and move on, and I'll enjoy my place, watching it all pass by. 

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ANGELA MERKEL

Merkel condemns Stuttgart rampage as ‘abhorrent’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel sharply condemned a violent rampage in Stuttgart, her spokesman said Monday, calling the brutal attacks against police officers and the looting of shops by hundreds of people "abhorrent".

Merkel condemns Stuttgart rampage as 'abhorrent'
A sign reading 'Create, don't destroy' in front of one of the damaged windows on Monday. Photo: DPA

“Whoever has done this has turned against their city, against the people with whom they live and against the laws that protect us all,” said Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert of the riots that erupted over the weekend.

READ ALSO: Shock in Germany as hundreds run riot in Stuttgart

German authorities have expressed shock over the rampage of an “unprecedented scale” in the early hours of Sunday in the city centre of Stuttgart, where hundreds of partygoers ran riot, attacking police and plundering stores after smashing shop windows.

Two dozen people, half of them German nationals, were arrested provisionally, as police reported at least 19 colleagues hurt.

Tensions built up shortly after midnight when officers carried out checks on a 17-year-old German man suspected of using drugs, Stuttgart deputy police chief Thomas Berger said.

Crowds who were milling around at the city's biggest square, the Schlossplatz, immediately rallied around the young man and began flinging stones and bottles at police.

The groups of mostly men also used sticks or poles to smash windows of police vehicles parked around the square, which is next to the regional parliament of Baden-Württemberg as well as the state's finance ministry.

At the height of the hours-long clashes, some 400 to 500 people joined in the battle against police officers and rescue workers.

In a speech on Monday, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said perpetrators of the rampage must be “prosecuted and punished with all the severity of the law”.

“We must resolutely oppose anyone who attacks police officers, who shows contempt for them or gives the impression that they should be 'disposed of',” said the president.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer is due to visit Stuttgart along with his state interior minister Thomas Strobl to take stock of the trail of destruction left behind in the rampage.

Contempt

He also pointed to the worrying trend that police and emergency workers were increasingly coming under attack, both physically and verbally.

“Besides the attacks and insults, there is also disparagement — and that can hurt just like physical violence,” he said, stressing that politicians must stand behind the police.

In a speech on Monday, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier sent the same message.

“We must resolutely oppose anyone who attacks police officers, who shows
contempt for them or gives the impression that they should be 'disposed of',”
he said.

Police unions and emergency workers have been warning of authorities increasingly coming under attack as they go about their work.

Tensions have also spilled over from the Black Lives Matter demonstrations
in the United States where officers are accused of being racist.

In a separate incident in Germany's Lower Saxony state, several police officers were injured while enforcing a coronavirus quarantine imposed on 700 residents of a high-rise building.

And the police union DPolG has filed a lawsuit against a columnist of left-leaning daily TAZ over an article titled: “All cops are unfit for the job”.

On Monday, Seehofer said he too was considering filing a complaint against
the writer, warning that irresponsible speech can lead to dramatic consequences.

 

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