Stones and Firecrackers at Middle East Demonstrations in Essen, Germany
Many people protested on Friday (07/18/2014) in Essen against the use of the military of Israel in the Gaza Strip. In addition, a demonstration against Antisemitism and terror took place. Even before the protests, the police foiled crimes against a synagogue.
Under the slogan “Peace Demonstration for the Middle East” the youth organization of the Left Party organized on Friday (07/18/2014) a march. Thousands of participants were expected in the center of Essen. In the early evening observers estimated the actual number of participants to around 1,000 to 1,500 demonstrators. Even Palestinian organizations and left factions had called for the demonstration. On banners and placards it said among other things “stop the genocide”, “Yesterday victim – now murderers” or “Stop the massacre”. Many protesters carried Palestinian towels while others were waving the Palestinian flag. At the same time demonstrated about 100 people “against Antisemitism and terrorism.” In both events, the police had a massive presence.
Confrontation in downtown
After the demonstrations, the participants of the demonstrations stood in front of each other in downtown, reciting chants. Hostile anti-Israel slogans were shouted. Isolated stones flew from the set of anti-Israel demonstrators to the much smaller group of Israel supporters and a firecracker was also ignited. Preliminary reports indicate that no one was injured. The background of the protests is the escalating conflict in the Middle East. On Thursday evening (7/17/2014) Israel began a ground offensive in Gaza.
Arrests in Essen
Ahead of the demonstrations, Essen police took in several people who are suspected of having planned “serious crimes” against the Old Synagogue in the city. With the arrests of the persons who planned to commit offenses under the great anti-Israel rally, such incidents were prevented. The police did not provide data concerning the nature of the offenses feared. The homes of those persons suspected were searched. Overall, according to police there were 15 searches of apartments, of which 14 were in Essen and 1 in Unna. 14 people 17-41 years of age were taken into custody. In the searches no dangerous objects or weapons were seized according to the information given. The office is investigating the detained for conspiracy to commit a crime. Since Thursday, increased security precautions have been applied to the synagogues in the Ruhr area. Since the incident, before the Old Synagogue in Essen two policemen have been patrolling with bulletproof vests and machine guns. Normally this is done by “normal patrol officers”.
The Old Synagogue in Essen is no “active synagogue” but rather a cultural institute of the city with exhibitions and events on Jewish culture and history. In the building of the old synagogue on the edge of the center among other things, an exhibition of Jewish traditions and festivals is shown.
Offensive in the Gaza Strip
With the launched offensive on Thursday night (17/7/2014) Israel wants to stop the massive rocket fire from the Palestinian coastal region. This bombardment had been going on during the ten days of air strikes since July 8. As part of the ground offensive as of Friday noon 24 Palestinians were killed, including several civilians. On the Israeli side 37 soldiers and officers had been killed until today (26/7). Demonstrators had expressed their solidarity with Israel in Dusseldorf since Thursday (17/7). Middle East demonstrations are organized these days – for and against Israeli policy in many German cities.
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