Emotions run high outside Trzemeska street police station last night, where protesters gathered to demand the truth about how a 25-year-old man died at the station on Sunday morning. The demonstration started peacefully but escalated into violence, with some protesters hurling missiles in the direction of riot police.
According to Gazeta Wroclawksa, the 25 year old man who died at the station, known as Igor, was arrested by police in the early hours of Sunday morning for behaving aggressively in the street. The newspaper claims Igor had escaped police custody on Saturday night, only to be spotted by officers hours later after he had been partying in Cherry Club.
Reports suggest that when Igor refused to give his ID, the police asked him to come with them to the station. That allegedly provoked an angry reaction from the man, one deemed aggressive enough for one officer to fire a stun-gun at him. Mobile phone video footage shot by a passer-by also shows how the police then picked up Igor from the cobbled stones of the Rynek and dumped him in a police car.
When the officers got back to the station, it reportedly became clear Igor was indeed the suspect who had earlier escaped police custody. It is thought that Igor had originally been arrested for fraud.
It was during questioning when Igor is believed to have collapsed. He was immediately resuscitated by the police and then later by paramedics, neither of whom were able to save him.
Initial reports stated that the cause of death was cardio-respiratory failure. The results of the autopsy were supposed to have been published yesterday, but Onet reports that a more detailed investigation will now take place, the results of which are not due for a month.
Igor's father is quoted as saying his son had a heavily swollen jaw, a scarred nose, bruised forehead, swelling on his chest, and a neck with visible signs of suffocation. There are suggestions that these injuries were sustained during Igor's participation in mixed martial arts fighting, however his father said the rumours were "utter rubbish".
This morning Paweł Petrykowski of Lower Silesia Police also claimed Igor had had some so called 'booster drugs' in his possession, which he may well have taken hours before his death.
According to Gazeta Wroclawska, people began to gather at yesterday's protest at around 6pm, with many of the demonstrators demanding to know why the police removed the candles that had been left outside the police station the day before.
Photo © Paweł Relikowski / Gazeta Wroclawska
By 6.30pm the numbers at the protest had reportedly shot up to around 300, and following a minute's silence in the name of Igor's death, things quickly began to flare up. Despite one of the protesters reportedly shouting through a megaphone "no provocation" some men threw firecrackers in the direction of the police. Things then escalated further, prompting the arrival of riot police, who had to shield themselves from stones and other objects that were thrown in their direction. The police's water cannon was later used against those who were hurling the objects.
The disturbance caused the temporary closure of a stretch of Legnicka street, creating problems for those using public transport in particular.
After 8pm the situation eventually calmed down, however a group of around 30 protesters refused to disperse and continued to chant slogans in the direction of the police for some time. About a dozen or so people were still demonstrating as late as 10pm according to Gazeta Wroclawska, who claim the protesters told them they would burn down the police station tomorrow if they received no answers to their questions. Earlier in the day the protest's organisers also announced that they would return to the police station for a repeat demonstration at 6pm today.
Lower Silesia Police's Paweł Petrykowski told the media last night that 9 protesters had been arrested for acts of violence, while one officer had been hospitalised after being hit in the head by a stone.
Petrykowski also commended the behaviour of the peaceful protesters and promised them that they would find the answers to the questions surrounding Igor's death. He then went on to blame hooligans for "intervening" in the protest and sparking the scenes of violence.
Photos © Paweł Relikowski / Gazeta Wroclawska
Reports today suggest that independent mediators may be brought in to deal with the case due to the mistrust of the police among Igor's family and some of the general public. In the meantime, Igor's family have appealed for calm.
UPDATE: The Commander of Wroclaw's Provincial Police force has stated they have evidence that Igor was involved in an incident before he encountered the police that could explain his facial injuries.