Last Monday and yesterday, riots erupted in my old hometown Utrecht, sparked off in the working class neighbourhood of Ondiep.
(Ondiep! I really liked Ondiep. A. lived closeby. I lived on walking distance too. I went there with GreenLeft people a few years ago to be guided around by residents to hear about the mass demolition that the city was planning. Demolitions that would destroy any remaining social cohesion and drive the locals out. Joined them to protest the demolitions at the city hall debate about it too.*)
I doublepost this on the Riots in France thread, because it was in a way how the Paris suburb riots started - in reverse.
A middle-aged local white resident was shot by police when it was called out to intervene in a street scuffle between him and (non-white) youths on the street. He died of his injuries. His death triggered these riots, in which mostly white youths turned against police and anything to do with the authorities, but also committed random violence.
In the two days, 135 people were arrested. Youths, many of them football supporters/hooligans who had gathered from across the region, went on a rampage, burning cars, smashing windows, and setting fire to a (former) policestation, a community centre, and a local office of the youth crime prevention program - but also a random student's back yard.
More to it than that, of course. Thats why, after reading about this, I made a collage from all the English-language accounts I could find of what happened. The result is below.
It was an interesting exercise, actually, emphasising the "fog of war" aspect of reporting - did they set fire to one car or more cars? To a police station or a former police station? Were shops looted? Was the copper who shot the man a guy, or a woman of Moroccan origin? Is Ondiep a largely white or an ethnically mixed neighbourhood? (I know that one - it is somewhat ethnically mixed, but largely white. One of those characteristic remaining white working class neighbourhoods.)
A special case amongst the sources I found is the version of events told by the (far? right-wing) Brussels Journal, which differs rather drastically from the versions in the other nine articles. Hence why I've sometimes explicited its contribution.
On Sunday night, police shot dead a 54-year-old man, Rini Mulder, local resident of the largely white/ethnically mixed working-class Utrecht neighbourhood of Ondiep.
The man was involved in a row with some young people. The police officer called to the scene felt threatened by the man who was brandishing a knife [or] threatening a police officer with a knife - and shot him dead.
However, local residents told TV reporters that the man himself had called for police help after being harassed by a gang of youths.
A man on the street in Ondiep says he had been friends with Mulder for "almost 30 years." They were involved in the fight on Sunday against a group of 20 young Dutch-Turks that were hanging about the streets. Rini Mulder had left the house determined to "teach a lesson" to the group hanging out there, playing loud music and intimidating local residents.
He says Rini put his hand in the air when police finally arrived. "But he wasn't threatening them. He wanted to indicate that it was he that had called police."
The officer thought he was being threatened and shot Mulder in the chest. "He should have shot into the air, the bastard," says local resident Ali Kwarten.
[Here's the Brussels Journal
version of events: "Apparently Mulder intervened when Muslim youths harassed a pregnant native Dutch woman. He was able to grab the knife of one of the youths. When the police arrived Mulder was shot because he had raised the knife. Witnesses say Mulder was indicating to the police that he had called for them." The Brussels Journal also claims that "according to our sources the police officer who killed Mulder is a woman of Moroccan origin"].
The state prosecutor is now investigating the incident.
Tensions ran high on Monday evening at about 10.00 p.m. It began when a large group of youths [Brussels Journal
: "non-immigrant citizens"] went on a rampage through the neighbourhood, throwing stones and setting small fires in "inverted Paris style riots."
Fire was set to a former neighbourhood police office on the Amsterdamseweg and its windows were smashed. A car was set on fire. A community centre was set on fire and destroyed.
[The Brussels Journal
version: "After the death of Mulder the indigenous Dutch decided they had had enough and started riots".]
When riot police were brought in, a crowd of more than 500 youths started throwing stones at them on the Boerhaavelaan.
Police arrested two people. One police officer was slightly injured when stones were thrown at a police car.
Many of the young men involved were not neighbourhood residents, according to police. The area was calm by midnight.
On Tuesday night, the city's mayor ordered the neighbourhood sealed off and mandated a curfew to prevent a second night of disturbances. Only residents would be allowed in or out
But gangs of youths gathered in various places around Ondiep. In one incident, stones and bottles were thrown at the police, in another fires were set.
In Ondiep itself there were 60 arrests, mainly for breaking the ban on forming groups in public places, NOS said.
Overall at least 130 people were arrested, both in the city centre and fringes of the neighbourhood Ondiep. Many of those arrested had been throwing stones and bottles at police and others had refused to disperse. The people arrested were taken to police stations in The Hague, Amsterdam and Utrecht.
Police said the arrests included a number of football supporters from FC Utrecht, Feyenoord, The Hague and Amsterdam Ajax who had come to the city looking for trouble and were arrested for vandalism, violence or disturbing public order. Notices to go to the city had been posted on football fan websites.
Dutch television showed most of the people who ignored the curfew and were arrested were white.
The situation in downtown Utrecht calmed down at about midnight. The supporters seem to have gone home at that point, police reported.
Seven of the people arrested on Tuesday will be brought before the court on Thursday. The other 128 have been released or will be released with a fine.
The neighbourhood will once again be sealed off to non-residents by police tonight. The area has been ringed with fences which will be pulled across all roads later today.
"The municipality has picked up on signals that there will be disturbances in the city on Wednesday again," said a municipal spokesperson.
Utrecht mayor Annie Brouwer and the police will talk with neighbourhood residents in a closed meeting at the Mariakerk this afternoon. A press conference will follow.
A police spokesman told ANP that the area will probably be kept under tight control until after Thursday's march (stille tocht) in memory of the dead man.
The neighbourhood of Ondiep is known for its social problems, and has been designated by the state as a disadvantaged neighbourhood.
The mood in the troubled district has been tense for a long time as hundreds of social apartments are to be replaced by expensive new developments. Urban renewal plans will result in the demolition of most of the homes. Many of the area residents have already moved out.
The neighbourhood is not enthusiastic about the renewal plans. They complain that the new homes planned for the area will be unaffordable for them. "They want richer people here in the neighbourhood," says Willem de Graaf, another resident.
"The neighbourhood is at a difficult point in the renewal," says Rinda den Besten, alderwoman for the neighbourhood." "One in three houses is standing empty at the moment, soon that will be two in three. The situation is going to last for a few months."
Den Besten admits that the neighbourhood will be a mess in the meantime. There is little social control, precisely the kind of situation that plays into the hands of the group that was hanging about the intersection of the Boerhaavelaan and the Thorbeckelaan on Sunday.
It is clear that there is more going on than just rage and sadness over the death of Rini Mulder. "They just don't do anything about the creeps that are ruining this neighbourhood," says resident Ali Kwarten. "That is frustration number one."
"Those cops don't know what they're doing," says Rini Mulder's friend. "They never come when you need them. Just call 112 if things get serious, they say. It's obviously too late then."
[Here's the Brussels Journal's
take on things:
"Ondiep residents have been complaining for months about harassment and intimidation by immigrant youths of Moroccan origin. Locals claim the police has failed to protect them for years. They say the authorities are afraid of the immigrants and tolerate their criminal behaviour.
Ondiep is one of the Dutch urban neighbourhoods which seem to have been abandoned by the authorities. It is hardly a surprise that the natives are beginning to fight back.
An official report published last [January] states that the Government has seriously underestimated "tensions between various ethnic and cultural groups of youths." The report says that the Dutch authorities fail to grasp the gravity of the problem.
If nothing is done the country will soon witness situations similar to the French riots of 2005 and 2006 which led to the police abandoning immigrant suburbs to gangs of Muslim youths."]
Parliament will most likely debate the disturbances in the Utrecht neighbourhood of Ondiep next week.
MPs first want a letter from ministers Guusje ter Horst (Home Affairs), Ernst Hirsch Ballin (Justice) and Ella Vogelaar (Living, Neighbourhoods and Integration) about the causes of the riots, the measures taken by the municipality, and the role of the "riot tourists," who came from other cities to get involved in the disturbances.
Parliament asked for this letter at the initiative of Freedom party PVV leader Geert Wilders on Wednesday. Wilders initially wanted an emergency debate on the matter tomorrow but the other factions wanted to give the cabinet more time to come with the information.
DutchNews.nl: Two arrested in Utrecht disturbances
DutchNews.nl: 130 arrests in Utrecht disturbances
Irish Examiner: Dutch police arrest 130 after shooting protest
DPA article: Over 100 Arrests In Riots In Utrecht
Expatica: Utrecht neighbourhood calm after riots
DutchNews.nl: Police to seal Utrecht streets for second night (update)
Expatica: Situation calm in Utrecht
Expatica: Parliament to debate riots
Expatica: Resident wanted to "teach them a lesson"
The Brussels Journal: Utrecht: Ethnic Riots after Dutchman is Killed by Police