Excessive force used at housing crisis protest; Journalists & climate activists detained at protests

Excessive force used at housing crisis protest; Journalists & climate activists detained at protests
Climate activists face detention during a protest at the Hague (Photo by Nacho Calonge/Getty Images).


CSO's chairman arrested over suspicion of involvement in assisted suicide:

Dutch police arrested Jos van Wijk, the chairman of Coöperatie Laatste Wil (CLW), an organisation that advocates for people's right to end their own lives, over suspicion of involvement in assisted suicide. According to the Public Prosecution Service, the 73-year-old chairman participated in a criminal organisation whose intent is to commit or plan assisted suicide. The investigation followed a number of recent suicides in the country. Van Wijk claims that the actions of the organisation he founded have always been carried out in respect of the law and in full transparency.

The name of CLW had already been linked to criminal actions after a 28-year-old man, who was also a member of the organisation, was arrested in Eindhoven in July 2020 for supplying people with “suicide powder”: At least six people have reportedly died after obtaining the substance from the CLW member. Meetings of Coöperatie Laatste Wil were halted after this episode, over concerns that they were being used to set up drug purchases.

Peaceful Assembly

Suspects in illegal weapons possession wearing Nazi uniforms arrested

Four young protesters, aged between 18 and 20, have been arrested for illegal weapons possession. While they have been released after questioning, they are still under suspicion. The suspects were wearing Nazi uniforms in the streets of Urk, supposedly to protest the restrictions enforced by the Dutch government to prevent the spread of the COVID-19. They followed people running away from them, pretending to shoot them with an object that resembled a weapon, as shown by images circulated on social media. One of the photos shows a man in a prison suit with a Star of David on his chest kneeling while someone in uniform stands behind him with a rifle in his hands. The four suspects could also be prosecuted for publicly wearing the Nazi uniforms and the Public Prosecution Service will decide on this in the coming weeks. The four have apologised to the municipality of Urk and to Lous Steenhuis-Hoepelman, an 80-year-old Holocaust survivor.

Police use excessive force during protests on housing crisis

Around 15,000 people gathered in the Dutch capital on 12th September 2021 to protest the spike in housing prices in the Netherlands. The campaign group Woonprotest organised the demonstration, backed by 200 organisations. According to the organisers this is the worst housing crisis since WWII which is leading to a serious shortage of affordable rental accommodation and long waiting lists for social housing. This situation particularly affects people in vulnerable situations, including international students who are very often in precarious living conditions nationwide.

Following the demonstration, 61 people were detained for attempting to squat in an empty building. The squatters condemned the use of excessive force by the police. Furthermore, they specified that the building has been empty for many years, which they find unacceptable considering the growing need for houses. The activists also reclaimed squatting as a form of protest for housing rights.

Extinction Rebellion Blockade

On 11th October 2021, Extinction Rebellion (XR) blocked an intersection near the temporary House of Representatives, as part of a week of protests in The Hague before a U.N. climate conference (COP26) that opens on 31 October 2021. According to police, more than 60 people were arrested for “causing a dangerous traffic situation”.

In another action on 13th October 2021, XR planned to block the Utrechtsebaan in The Hague with stationary vehicles. The road is known to have around 60,000 cars drive daily to the centre. However, before the roads could be blocked, the police detained all activists under Article 162 of the Criminal Code related to blocking a public road.


Molotov cocktails thrown at journalist's house
According to Mapping Media Freedom on the night of 19th August 2021 Molotov cocktails were thrown through the window of Willem Groeneveld, the founder and editor-in-chief of Sikkom, the city blog of Groningen. Groeneveld and his partner, who were luckily unharmed, managed to stop the fire that was sparked after the Molotov hit the house. The police do not want to speculate on the cause of the attack until the investigations are concluded. However, this is not the first time that the journalist, who is well known for his journalistic work in the area, has been a target of intimidation and threats. Recently his address was shared on the internet – an intimidation practice called doxing. Whether the doxing is related to the Molotov attack still needs to be clarified.

Journalists arrested while covering XR protest

As documented by Mapping Media Freedom, on 11th October 2021, journalist Mac van Dinther from de Volkskrant daily newspaper was arrested by police while he was covering a protest by climate group Extinction Rebellion in The Hague (see above). Van Dinther reports that he was “forcibly dragged into a police van” because he was “too close” to officers. He was detained for a few hours on suspicion of obstructing officers and insulting them, despite identifying himself as a journalist. The reporter was released on bail pending investigation; however the newspaper has filed a complaint to police. Editor-in-chief of de Volkskrant Pieter Klok said:

“We are very concerned about the brutality with which the police have acted against our journalist. There must be very compelling reasons to restrict journalists in this way in the freedom of news gathering and especially to arrest them. I can't imagine that being the case in this case."

In addition, on 13th October 2021, climate journalist Hans Nijenhuis and photojournalist Marco de Swart were temporarily detained by police officers in The Hague. The pair wanted to report on one of the actions being staged by XR (see above) However, before the roads could be blocked, the police detained all activists and also took the two journalists into custody. Although they identified themselves as journalists and showed their press cards, the police told them they had to come to the station. They were later released.

International Press Institute condemned the arrests of journalists during protests:

“These arrests by Dutch police are a violation of journalists’ right to report on a matter of public interest. Police have a responsibility to use extreme caution while interrogating or arresting journalists at protests. All three of these arrests appear to have been unjustified. It is also concerning that officers refused to accept officially licensed press cards and instead hauled two journalists off the street to the police station for additional checks. When it became clear they were journalists, they should have been released immediately. Their arrests resulted in direct interference and obstruction of their reporting.” - IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen.