Violent clashes between police and youths in St Gallen

A few hundred people were on the streets, but the violence came from a smaller group, police said. Keystone / Michel Canonica

Groups of young people attacked police on Friday night in the eastern Swiss city of St Gallen. A petrol bomb, rubber bullets, and tear gas were used, and 21 people were questioned.

This content was published on April 3, 2021 - 14:52

The unrest came a week after similar violence when police broke up an illegal party in the city.

This week the exchanges were more heated, with police at one point being attacked by a Molotov cocktail. They responded with rubber bullets and tear gas. Two young people were injured. Some 21 were arrested by police for questioning, but all have since been released, according to Swiss public broadcaster, SRF.

On Saturday, mayor of St Gallen Maria Pappa told reporters that the city would have "zero tolerance" for such violence, but that the events the previous night were also largely the result of "just a few troublemakers".

Some shops and restaurants were hit by material damage, and containers were set on fire in the city centre. As of Saturday midday, local police said, seven reports of damages had been registered, coming to a total of some CHF50,000 ($53,050).

According to the St Galler Tablatt newspaper, last night’s violence was preempted on social media throughout the week. The paper also wrote that some participants had travelled from other parts of German-speaking Switzerland on Friday (for example from Bern, two hours away by train) to be part of the action.

‘Corona frustration’

Although the violence is not organised as such, media reports have clearly linked it to current Covid-19 restrictions, and the lack of social and cultural perspectives for young people.

In an interview with the Neue Zürcher Zeitung during the week, youth psychologist Félix Hof said he expects such incidents – which he "understands" but doesn’t condone – to increase, as long as the developmental needs of young people aren’t better integrated into pandemic measures.

Under current Covid-19 rules in Switzerland, outdoor public gatherings are permitted, but capped at a maximum of 15 people. Indoors, this number is fixed at 10. Larger political demonstrations are allowed, provided they receive the go-ahead from local authorities.

In mid-February, when announcing the next stages of the government’s plans to slowly lift restrictions, Swiss president Guy Parmelin paid tribute to the younger generation for their efforts in trying to live with the restrictions.

At that point, the government also introduced tailored measures allowing young people – up to the age of 20 – to “have access to most sports and cultural activities” again. This allowed taking part in competitive sports, as well as the possibility of organising private music concerts.

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