On Jan. 2, during an anti-lockdown protest march in Amsterdam, police used excessive violence employing K-9 teams, riot police, provocateurs, and water cannons against peaceful, unarmed citizens.
Images of violent clashes rocked the planet in the aftermath of what could have been the greatest peaceful protest march in the Netherlands’ history.
The incident spurred Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, to invite the victims of police violence to step forward and report their cases. In a tweet posted on Jan. 2, he said, “In preparation for my official visit in 2022 to #Netherlands, #Poland & #France focusing on #PoliceViolence, I invite victims, witnesses & NGO to submit verifiable evidence (Eng/Fre) on this & other incidents:”
Prelude to violence
During the days leading up to Jan. 2, some major organizations like the conservative Forum for Democracy party backed the authorized gathering. However, the gathering was called into question when riot-police unions announced a strike for the day of the protests, citing low wages and high work stress.
This led Amsterdam’s Mayor Femke Halsema to curtail the demonstration to 3,500 participants. However, she later banned it altogether, citing COVID-19 concerns and blasted the march’s organizers for their unwillingness to cooperate and come to an agreeable solution.
Notwithstanding the alleged strike, there was an abundant supply of riot police teams present, some consisting of members of the Royal Marechaussee, an elite military troop, while some other units were jean-clad operatives in riot gear wearing unofficial insignia on their sleeves.
Some fear these troops belonged to the notorious Eurogendfor forces, a supra-national army especially dedicated to suppressing opposition during uproars. Mostly they are deployed on foreign soil and, purportedly, have a license to kill when it comes to opponents who resist their arrest. Suspicion was further fanned by the fact that some officers, reportedly, didn’t speak Dutch or English.
Ricardo Baretzky, President of the European Centre for Information Policy and Security ECIPS and CYBERPOL voiced his concerns on his LinkedIn page over these troops that do not owe any responsibility to any government, stating:
I have seen these types of pre-civil war conditions in many countries such as Ukraine, South Africa and others in the past where State security dressed as police participate by presidential orders in particular when leaders can no longer escape their demons of accountability. This is a strong indicator that the Dutch military is divided from the rest and leaders are no longer in control of the situation on the ground. For those who don’t know, the civil code used when state security are involved are that of wearing jeans with police badging, a police jacket and or a badge, normally in groups of 10 to 12 to be visible to the real police at all times. It’s clear that on sunday past there were at least one such group with the police and fuelling the unrest. A good way to notice this is that they group together separate from the real police and those in full uniform always walk backwards when the Bandits step in.
Present also were the notorious “Romeos,” civilian agent-provocateurs who have attended numerous Netherlands protests over the past two years. They operate by randomly attacking people, and last year one of them was witnessed pushing an elderly lady under an approaching police van during protests at The Hague.
Despite the ban by Mayor Halsema, some 200,000 people showed up at the protests centered around the Museum Square area where most of the atrocities took place, the organizers reported. Dutch national broadcaster NOS said some 2,000 people attended the demonstrations.
Other video footage near Museum Square clearly shows how riot police members stepped aside and a group of jean-clad fighters stepped forward and instigated a fight by suddenly attacking a group of veteran soldiers who had positioned themselves between the police and the protestors acting as a protective shield.
A still from this police attack made headlines with the Telegraaf newspaper that commented that protesters completely “lost it” and went berserk, stating that the veterans were a bunch of self-proclaimed imposters.
More violent outbursts
The police’s display of violence is reminiscent of the violent clashes between police and rioters in Rotterdam on Nov. 19. Four rioters were reportedly shot and killed, although police to date deny any casualties have taken place.
It’s unknown whether those casualties include the case of one person who was allegedly run down by a police van and dragged over 50 meters before the car came to a standstill.
Melzer also reposted to Twitter images of a gruesome event that took place in The Hague last year that depicted an unarmed dissident lying on the ground trying to ward off a charging police dog while being kicked and beaten by riot police amidst what he called “one of the most disgusting scenes of police brutality I have seen since GeorgeFloyd!”
In a statement, police officials said they regretted Melzer’s rebuke stating that Melzer based his judgment on just a few images without considering the overall context. They even announced to file a complaint against Melzer, although it’s not clear on what grounds.
According to some, protesters at the gathering remained calm and peaceful and won a psychological victory by not resorting to violence. According to the organizers, the activists have become even more determined to turn the tide against the COVID-19 measures imposed by the Dutch authorities.