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Organizers of Eritrean cultural celebration say letter threatened violence

INDIANAPOLIS — Protests erupted ahead of a planned traditional Eritrean celebration for the new year and lanes of Lafayette Road on the near northwest side of Indianapolis briefly shut down over the weekend.The group behind the demonstration is known as Brigade Nhamedu. They're known for protesting the Eritrean government all over the world. They say the country's leaders have committed repeated human rights violations.

Members of Indianapolis' Eritrean Community Cultural and Civic Center said they received a letter warning them of the possibility of a disruption. The letter suggested they consider canceling the event to avoid violent clashes. 

"They're trying to terrorize our community." Hailat Seilu, one of the event organizers. "They're trying to hurt our mothers, our kids. If they want to talk, we can talk, but violence is not the solution for us."

Organizers still moved forward with the Dec. 30 celebration, but told police about the letter.

"It's a form of bridging the gap," said Sammi Mebrahtu. "Bringing the cultures together. There's no violence on our side or anything else."

Cell phone video obtained by 13News shows IMPD trying to control a group of demonstrators who were protesting outside of the event.

According to police, they were called to Lafayette Road around 5:15 p.m. The demonstration moved into the street causing a portion of the road to be shut down.

Three people were arrested.

According to witnesses, protestors came with sticks and shouted racial slurs. Three people were arrested.

Organizers say this is first time it's happened in Indiana, but now there's concern it could happen again.

"We don't want our kids growing up in this kind of environment," said Seilu.