AHONDA, AREDOA — Violence erupted in the city of Ahonda today as anti-immigration groups protesting the placement of 21 immigrant households in a modern council-run apartment complex were met by counter-protesters, sparking a tense standoff.
The settlement of the immigrants in an apartment complex built just last year was decided by the Ahonda City Council in a recent meeting to ease the pressure on the city’s immigration system. The decision sparked controversy, with Councillors of the right-wing Freedom Party launching a short-lived filibuster on the motion and accusing their colleagues of putting the needs of migrants over the needs of struggling Aredoans.
The week after the passage of the motion, anti-immigration demonstrators gathered outside the complex. The crowds of protestors, carrying signs emblazoned with slogans such as “Aredoa First” and “Send Them Home”, were addressed by guest speakers who expressed their concern at the impact of the council’s immigration policy.
Shortly after the group’s arrival, hundreds of counter-protesters arrived on site, unfurling banners reading “Immigrants Welcome Here” and using a variety of methods to disrupt the anti-immigration protest.
The demonstration’s peaceful start took a turn for the worse when a flare was fired at the apartment complex from amongst the crowds of protesters. Within minutes, a wave of violence was unleashed as protesters and counter-protesters clashed in a large-scale fistfight. Police struggled to gain control of the situation for over 20 minutes before eventually forming a barrier between the groups and using water cannons to disperse the crowds.
The fighting left 4 people being rushed to hospital to receive urgent care for their injuries, while 39 people with minor injuries were attended to at the scene by paramedics. The Ahonda Police Department has confirmed that 17 arrests were made, including the arrest of Freedom Party Councillor Gasper Riera, who has been charged with the incitement of racial harassment. The party has stood by its Councillor, with a national party spokesman calling Riera’s arrest “an attack on […] freedom of speech and political thought”.
President Maria Ortalez released a statement this evening condemning the acts of violence. In what is being interpreted as a thinly-veiled dig at the Freedom Party, the President’s letter stated that “Freedom is a universal human right that is not, and can never be, conditional. We must stamp out bigotry in all its forms to allow everyone to live securely and free from harassment.”
As night falls, a police cordon remains in place at the apartment complex overnight. Tensions remain high as local communities on both sides of the immigration debate react to the day’s events. The Immigrant Welfare Center has called for calm and healing over the next number of days, also issuing a warning to politicians to be mindful of inflammatory language that demonizes immigrants.