Violent anti-asylum riots lead to 14 arrests, mayor threatened

Riot police in Geldermalsen during asylum debate on Dec 16th, 2015 (Photo: @iWeethetbeter/Twitter)Riot police in Geldermalsen during asylum debate on Dec 16th, 2015 (Photo: @iWeethetbeter/Twitter)

The police arrested 14 people in Geldermalsen on Wednesday night after the debate about a possible asylum center in the Gelderland town turned to riots. Protesters tried to storm the town hall where the municipal council were discussing taking in 1,500 asylum seekers.

Things started going wrong shortly after the meeting started, according to broadcaster NOS. Dozens of rioters managed to break through the gates outside the town hall. They threw fireworks, stones at cans at the police while shouting slogans.

Fifteen riot police buses were sent to Geldermalsen to try and get the situation under control. The police fired warning shots to keep the rioters out of the town hall two officers were slightly injured.

Some firework bombs made their way inside the building, smashing several windows in the process and filling the council chamber with smoke. The council chamber was evacuated and council members came filing out through the back door. The Explosive Ordnance Disposal squad was called in to investigate a possible explosive, which proved to be a heavy piece of fireworks that did not explode.

The police forces managed to calm things down around 11:00 p.m.

According to the Geldrmalsen municipality, the riots came as a complete surprise, despite the fact that Mayor Miranda de Vries was threatened before the meeting. The content of the treat is unknown. The mayor reported it to the police, NU reports.

"We did not foresee such a large commotion", a spokesperson for the municipality said to RTL Nieuws. The municipality monitored social media in the run-up to the meeting, but nothing pointed to a large disruption.

State Secretary Klaas Dijkhoff of Security and Justice called the riots unheard off. "There is all the space in the world if you want to express your opinion. But you will not do that by throwing fireworks", he said to NOS during a break in the debate on the Teeven deal on Wednesday night. He acknowledged that finding shelter for asylum seekers is a difficult issue. "But there is a limit."

Minister Ronald Plasterk of Home Affairs told BNR that he is very shocked by the events, calling them an "attack on democracy". "Whatever you think of the arrival of such a center, you should be able to have a normal debate about it. The municipal council must never be unable to get together."