Police chokehold death protesters blocked from Hague neighborhood
The Hague mayor Jozias van Aartsen decided not to allow a protest march against police brutality to go through the Schilderswijk neighborhood on Monday. Protesters will have to go another route. Protest organizers are furious. "We now have to demonstrate along a route that is invisible. You mat express your opinion, but only if as few people as possible hear it", one of the organizers said to Den Haag FM.
Monday's protest falls on the one year anniversary of Aruban man Mitch Henriquez' death in police custody. He tied shortly after being arrested at a music festival in The Hague. Police officers used a chokehold on him. And an autopsy later showed that the most likely cause of his death was strangulation.
The protest organizers wanted to march from Zuiderpark, where Henriquez was arrested, to the Hollands Spoor railway station. Their route where take them straight through Schilderswijk, where four days of rioting followed Henriquez' death, and along the Heemstraat police station.
But the municipality does not want to allow this route. "We can not do this to the residents of the neighborhood", a municipality spokesperson said to Den Haag FM.
On Saturday police chief Paul van Musscher also expressed concern about the protest march going through Schilderswijk. He told the local broadcaster that he regrets that another protest is being held and is worried that more riots will break out. "Everybody has the right to demonstrate and express their opinions. These demonstrations, however, can destroy some of what we achieved with the residents this past year", he said.
Protest organizes are furious about the decision to ban them from Schilderswijk. "A stream of news articles the past days tried to criminalize our commemoration demonstration", Frank van der Linde, spokesperson fro protest group United Activists, said to the broadcaster. "The protest is urgently needed. It is a disgrace that there is still no prosecution against the officers who robbed Mitch Henriquez of his life." The five officers involved in Henriquez' arrest are still suspended, but no charges were filed to date.
Van der Linde also called Van Musscher's statement that he finds the protest regrettable an affront to their right to demonstrate. "Our memorial would destroy a part 'of what was achieved'. But if there was such progress int he past year, why are the police still so afraid of riots? Van Musscher states that everything is being done 'to improve security in the city'. But who protects young people of color against the terror of the police?"