King, politicians, Ajax, police react to Amsterdam mayor's death

Amsterdam flag at half staff over Beurs van Berlage after Mayor Eberhard van der Laan's death, 6 Oct 2017
Amsterdam flag at half staff over Beurs van Berlage after Mayor Eberhard van der Laan's death, 6 Oct 2017Photo: Zachary Newmark / NL Times

"Amsterdam is crying for its beloved mayor and all of the Netherlands is grieving", Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Facebook in reaction to the death of Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan. He passed away on Thursday at the age of 62. The Dutch King and Queen, numerous politicians, the Amsterdam police, and Amsterdam's football team Ajax all responded to news of his death with shock and sadness.

"We remember Eberhard van der Laan as a driven mayor with a heart for his city and a fervent belief in a society in which everyone counts", King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima said in a statement released by the Koninklijk Huis. "He was marked by his action and movement in his dealings with people. We wish his wife and children strength in this great loss."

"We knew that it was going to happen, but Eberhard van der Laan's death hit many people very hard. Me too", Rutte said in a statement on Facebook. "This is very sad news. Eberhard was before all else an Amsterdammer among the Amsterdammers. He was also a manager who looked up people and really made contact with his directness and openness. You always knew where you stood with him, and that made him loved to everyone. Amsterdam is crying for its beloved mayor and all of the Netherlands is grieving. Today the flags hang half mast. Eberhard van der Laan will be missed. I wished his wife Femke and his children a lot of strength in this difficult time."

In a long and emotional statement, PvdA leader and Deputy Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher speaks of how he met Van der Laan, their time working together in the PvdA and Amsterdam city council and his last visit with the mayor last week. "Why am I so sad? Because last year we lost a friend to the same disease and I therefore understand something about the concerns for and of his family. But also - very selfishly - because Eberhard is - was - somebody to me, someone who should always be there", he writes on Facebook. "In that sense, more a father to me than the uncle he he jokingly called himself. A calm feeling that someone calls me 'youngster' and whom I never asked for help in vain."

"Last week Sunday I heard for the last time: 'Well dear boy, there's a lot of hope on your shoulders, but it's in a good place'." Asscher writes.

Deputy mayor Kasja Ollongren of Amsterdam released a statement on behalf of the city's college of mayor and aldermen. "The whole city is sad about the death of our mayor. Also for the college, the councilors, the many officials and the many others who worked with him over the past seven years, this is a huge loss. The thoughts of the city council and the municipality go out to his wife and children, and other relatives. Mayor Van der Laan did everything for the city. Until the last, he worked for all Amsterdammers. For this we are incredibly grateful to him, and he deserves a lot of respect."

"Farewell Eberhard. Amsterdam will miss you", GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver wrote on Twitter. 

"Great sadness about the loss of a big man", Ahmed Marcouch, mayor of Arnhem but formerly on the Amsterdam city council, said to RTL Nieuws. "A big loss. I sympathize with his relatives."

"Incredibly sad", said former Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen. "We knew it was going to happen, but yes, in the moment, it's terribly sad. Someone who played such a fantastic role in Amsterdam, but also outside it."

Amsterdam football team Ajax posted a video on Twitter of Van der Laan at matches and talking about the team. "Dear Mayor. Thank you for your inspiration, support, trust, directness, involvement. And above all, thanks for Amsterdam. Rest in peace", the football team said. 

The Amsterdam police also released a statement, calling Van der Laan a "brave mayor" and speaking of  "a great loss of a great man", RTL Nieuws reports. "Eberhard van der Laan was a brave mayor, who took action as needed", the statement reads. And: "Van der Laan worked for the past seven years with enormous passion, strength and commitment to Amsterdam." The statement is signed by Amsterdam police chief Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg and a number of officers. "He always put the security and livability of the city in first place. He embodied the city's motto: heroic, determined, compassionate."