Third of Gelderland municipal councilors face threats, violence

Dutch police crime scene tape
Dutch police crime scene tape. (Photo: Politie)

A third of all municipal councilors in Gelderland have been threatened or faced with violence, according to a survey among nearly 400 councilors from all 51 Gelderland municipalities by Omroep Gelderland. That puts the percentage of threatened councilors higher than the 29 percent national average.

"This new figure of threats is high. But it doesn't surprise me", Sjir Hanssen, board member of the Dutch association for councilors NVR, said to the broadcaster. "It's being talked about more. That makes it easier for councilors to come forward and say it happened to them. In addition, the hardening of society is continuing. There is no end to that."

The surveyed municipal councilors gave Omroep Gelderland countless examples of threats and aggression directed at them. A Nijmegen councilor had to run away when a citizen started chasing him with a wooden pole. Also in Nijmegen, a group of councilors were threatened with death during a visit to a caravan camp. "I will shoot you and everyone there dead", they were told. A Zevenaar councilor found a firework bomb in his garden. "It was at the time that we were talking about an asylum center in the municipality and I was expressing myself about it. It is clear to me that those are linked."

Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus of Justice and Security is currently working on a bill to increase the punishment for threatening politicians from up to 2 years in prison to up to 3 years in prison. But the NVR does not think that this will stop the threats, calling it "treating the symptoms" but not the disease. 

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