After Night of Violence Targeting Police, Germany Seeks ‘Roots of Anger’

After Night of Violence Targeting Police, Germany Seeks ‘Roots of Anger’

After Night of Violence Targeting Police, Germany Seeks ‘Roots of Anger’

After Night of Violence Targeting Police, Germany Seeks ‘Roots of Anger’

BERLIN — Ever since hundreds of young men attacked the police and vandalized dozens of stores in Germany on Saturday, the country has been wrestling with the question of why a routine check of a suspected drug dealer led to such an outpouring of violence.

While there were no political demands expressed during the night of violence in Stuttgart, the police appear to have been the clear target of dozens of young men after officers said they stopped but did not arrest a 17-year-old white German man on suspicion of drug possession in the center of Stuttgart late Saturday.

In the aftermath of the violence in one of the country’s safest and most prosperous cities, German officials were quick to underline the differences in tactics and training between their police forces and those in the United States, where protests against police brutality and systemic racism have swept the country.

But as reports on the protests in the United States have received widespread attention across Germany, immigrant groups here have been highly critical of the German police in recent weeks, citing years of being the targets of racial profiling.

So while German officials might have been caught off guard by the outbreak of violence, some in Germany were less surprised, pointing to underlying tensions between Stuttgart’s large immigrant communities and accusations of latent racism against the officers tasked with policing them.

The tensions exposed on Saturday, wrote the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper in an editorial, “lie deep in the past, in a time when the ‘guestworkers’ were brought to Germany to work at Mercedes and Porsche, building company cars for those in the boardrooms. Alone the word ‘guestworkers’ implies that it was never planned that these people would become part of German society.

“But now, they have been here for generations and it is a long path to a peaceful coexistence, which was revealed in Stuttgart on Saturday night.”

Of 25 people initially detained over the weekend, seven were arrested on Monday, the authorities said. They were identified as men ranging in age from 16 to 33 from Germany, Croatia, Iraq, Portugal and Latvia. They face charges of disturbing the peace, assault, attacking an official and theft.

The police said 19 officers were injured in the violence on Saturday night. There were no reports of injuries among those arrested.

Whereas the U.S. protests have led to many city and state officials pledging to rethink how policing is done and funded, German officials have not signaled that they see what happened in the southwestern city of Stuttgart as a sign for the need of any systematic reform. Instead, they defended police training and tactics.

“We don’t have American standards in our police,” Winfried Kretschmann, the governor of the state of Baden-Württemberg, of which Stuttgart is the capital, told reporters on Tuesday. “It is not allowed to press a knee into someone’s neck.”

“The police deserve not only our respect, but our trust,” Mr. Kretschmann added.

Chancellor Angela Merkel denounced the weekend violence as “abhorrent and to be sharply condemned,” while local officials on Tuesday weighed a ban on alcohol in public spaces to prevent another violent outbreak this weekend. The police said many of those involved in the attacks had been intoxicated.

Germany’s interior minister, Horst Seehofer, visited Stuttgart on Monday, pledging to bring the perpetrators to justice, insisting that, “Punishment is always the best form of prevention to avoid something like this happening again in the future.”

In recent weeks, with concerts banned and bars and clubs closed as part of efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus, many people in Stuttgart have moved their party out into the streets.

The city’s mayor is now considering banning alcohol in public spaces and installing more surveillance cameras to prevent further outbreaks of violence. At the same time, Martin Schairer, the city’s mayor for public security, said officials were reaching out to social workers, as well as those involved with the city’s immigrant communities.

Simon Fregin, a social worker involved with projects for local youths, blamed a combination of boredom, experience with the police and the restrictions related to the pandemic for the explosion on Saturday night.

“It is more a question of what perspectives do I have? What can I do with my life and what kind of an image do I have of the state or the police,” Mr. Fregin told ZDF public television. “What have been my experiences with them?”

In an editorial, the left-leaning Süddeutsche Zeitung called for “a relentless discussion about the roots of anger,” noting the large number of immigrants or their descendants involved in the unrest. “The state contributes to alienating immigrants or keeping them as strangers. But Germany cannot afford that.”

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