Corona protest in the Netherlands: what’s behind the riots

Status: 11/23/2021 3:40 p.m.

For a long time, certain sections of the population in the Netherlands have felt abandoned by politics. The corona measures apparently exacerbate anger at the state. But where does the violence come from?

By Ludger Kazmierczak, ARD-Studio The Hague

“Pure violence by idiots” – for Prime Minister Mark Rutte, the weekend riots were quickly dealt with. But the state shouldn’t make it that easy, says social psychologist Jacquelien van Stekelenburg. “There is no riot, not even the rioter. Last Friday in Rotterdam it began as a demonstration that later escalated. That happens when such a demo is captured by a group of rioters. But we also experienced rioting at the weekend, the same when the riot began, “said van Stekelenburg. She researches social changes and conflicts at the Free University of Amsterdam.

“Many citizens’ trust in politics shaken”

She has long observed that certain sections of the population are turning away from the state. They distrust politics because, in their opinion, it has failed in too many cases. As victims of climate policy, the farmers see their very existence threatened. There is hardly any affordable housing left in the whole country. In Groningen, people are sitting in damaged houses because the gas there is constantly shaking.

And then there is the Toeslagen affair, to which around 20,000 families – almost all of them with a migration background – fell victim. The state had wrongly suspected them of social fraud just because they were foreigners. An unprecedented scandal. According to van Stekelenburg, all of this has shaken the confidence of many citizens in politics. “The gap between the state and the citizen is widening. And the group that has a great distrust of the state is more likely to attack the extended arm of the state – during a demonstration,” she says.

Violence against rescue workers too

And so the violence was directed not only against the police, but also against fire fighters and rescue workers. During the riot in The Hague, a stone smashed the side window of an ambulance transporting a patient.

The breeding ground for this potential for violence was already laid during the financial and economic crisis more than ten years ago, says Marnix Eysink Smeets, legal and security expert at the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences. “So we have a breeding ground. This is then covered by Covid, the fear of the 2G rule, the pubs and restaurants are closed, nobody is allowed into the stadium and then the fireworks ban for New Year’s Eve. That hits exactly the groups around them it goes here, “says Eysink Smeets.

The scenes of the riots are mostly the same – the violent rioters too, according to Eysink Smeets. Groups known to the police who call themselves “Feyenoord City” or “Dockers United”. “What we do know is that some of them are hooligans, a hard core of football fans. Then there are right-wing extremists and conspiracy theorists who see everything as a plot. And they have attracted a lot of young people in Rotterdam, especially from socially disadvantaged areas”, he says. It must be the task of politics to get back into conversation with those who feel left behind.

Don’t just talk about idiots and criminals

Just talking about idiots and criminals is not enough, says Eysink Smeets. “As a cabinet, you have to understand the processes that underlie here. And if you don’t, it ends up back on your desk or – worse still – on the police desk. But if you understand what’s going on in the different groups in society, then your politics will change and your tone will change too. “

A new cabinet has still not been found eight months after the parliamentary elections. Not a good prerequisite for regaining lost trust.

Who and what is behind the riots in the Netherlands

Ludger Kazmierczak, ARD Den Haag, 11/23/2021 3:01 p.m.

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