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Police describe the chaos as a Woolwich demonstration turned violent


Waterloo regional police are sharing new details about a violent conflict in Woolwich Township.

Chaos broke out between members of the Eritrean community on Saturday night.

About 200 people were attending an event called “Achievements of Women” at the KW Croatia Club on Shantz Station Road in Breslau. Another 100 people showed up to protest the event and that’s when things turned violent.

Police said some of the demonstrators were carry wooden sticks, metal rods and large rocks.

“Members of the arriving group blocked the roadway with their vehicles and disrupted attempts to peacefully intervene,” Chief Mark Crowell said at a press conference Monday. “Rocks were thrown between the two conflicting groups and directly at police officers. Numerous individuals were struck and vehicles, including police cruisers, were damaged. Attempts were made by police to peacefully negotiate and deescalate the violence.”

Some officers were struck, but Crowell said none needed medical attention.

A 29-year-old Toronto man was arrested and charged with assault with a weapon.

Crowell said police are anticipating more charges as their investigation continues.

“Our investigators are reviewing various sources of video evidence to identify those involved and all criminal violations that occurred.”

What happened Saturday?

According to the chief, police were informed of the “Achievements of Women” event around 3:50 p.m. However, they were initially told it would be taking place on Dearborn Place in Waterloo.

“We were advised that upwards of 500 individuals would be attending to disrupt and protest the event,” Crowell explained.

He said officers saw a large group outside the venue, wearing light blue clothing and carrying flags and wooden sticks.

“It was determined that this was the wrong location of the planned event and all individuals ultimately returned to their vehicles and left the area,” Crowell added.

The same group was then seen at the Cambridge Centre around 5:45 p.m., but that was also the wrong location.

They then arrived at the KW Croatian Club around 6:40 p.m.

“Information provided to police indicated that the situation would likely result in violence,” Crowell stated.

People were seen carrying wooden sticks, metal rods and large rocks.

Police tried to break up the gathering which Crowell described as a “very challenging interaction.”

That’s when it became a “chaotic scene.”

Crowell said officers were hit with rocks and vehicles, including their cruisers, were damaged.

Shantz Station Road and Victoria Street North were shut down to traffic, but more people continued to arrive through nearby fields.

“Police had received information that several hundred individuals from surrounding communities were headed to Waterloo Region to join this conflict,” Crowell added.

Officers were eventually able to clear the area and roads reopened by 11 p.m.

Not an isolated incident

There have been long-standing tensions within the Eritrean community. Protests have broken out at cultural festivals over fears they may support and fund the country’s repressive regime.

Violence has been reported at events across Canada, including Toronto, Edmonton and Calgary, as well as Sweden, Israel and the Netherlands.

“We would like to acknowledge that this local incident does not reflect the Eritrean community in general,” Crowell said, while also acknowledging his concern about further conflicts.

“We have seen these types of events, with that number of people and with that level of volatility that our members confronted, the level of continued escalation was possible here, and, we believe, may be possible in the future,” he explained. “Acts of violence will not be tolerated in our community.” Top Stories

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