Rotterdam enforcers hurt in brawl over Covid-19 fines; BBQ fined €7,000

17 people caught barbecuing on a roof in Rotterdam-Carlois, despite coronavirus social distancing measures, 12 April 2020
17 people caught barbecuing on a roof in Rotterdam-Carlois, despite coronavirus social distancing measures, 12 April 2020Politie Charois. @POL_CharloisTwitter

Some Rotterdam residents found it difficult to adhere to the social distancing measures in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus over Easter weekend. A group of young people attacked enforcement officers when they were fined, hurting five enforcers. And a barbecue on a Rotterdam roof ended up costing the 17 attendees a total of nearly 7 thousand euros in fines. Rotterdam is using camera equipped cars to find groups faster.

The attack on the enforcement officers happened on Oldengaarde at around 5:40 p.m. on Sunday, Eric Lakeman of the Dutch enforcers' union NBB said to RTL Nieuw. Two enforcers addressed a group of six young people for not keeping 1.5 meters apart. When they wanted to fine the group, another 14 young people stormed them There was a brawl and the enforcers called in backup, to which another 10 enforcement officers responded.

"It took about 9 minutes for the police to arrive," Lakeman said to RTL. "In the meantime, the enforcers had to defend themselves with bare fists, they had nothing." Five enforcers were injured, two of whom had to be hospitalized. One had to undergo surgery for a ruptured Achilles tendon, the other's little finger was dislocated, he said. "A colleague also suffered a concussion, but he did not go to the hospital." Two suspects were arrested, the police are looking for a third.

The union again called on Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus of Justice and Security to arm enforcement officers. According to Lakeman, there is too little attention for violence against enforcers. "It only got worse since the corona measures. Reports are given to enforcers and only once things get out of hand do the police get involved." 

Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb is against arming enforcers, he said to Rijnmond. "I am not in favor of arming enforcement officers. They have a supervisory role. They have been trained and instructed that if anything happens, they must withdraw. That is the current line. In this case, it was unsuccessful," he said to the broadcaster. He expects that arming enforcers will only trigger more violence. "I think it will only escalate on the side of the government and that will evoke other forms of violence," he said.

On Sunday evening, the police caught 17 people barbecuing on the roof of a building on Mijnsherenlaan in Rotterdam-Charlois. When the police arrived at the scene, a number of attendees tried to hide in a home, but the police managed to track down all 17 of them. They were each fined 399 euros for violating to social distancing rules. That amounts to a barbecue that cost 6,783 euros, excluding food and drinks.

Aboutaleb told Rijnmond that he understands it is becoming increasingly difficult to adhere to the coronavirus measures and that irritations are mounting. "It is difficult if you are limited in your possibilities and freedom of movement for so long," he said. But he pointed out that people in other countries are facing much stricter measures, like in Italy, Spain and Morocco. "Here you can go outside and get a breath of fresh air and you can do your shopping. It is only forbidden to gather together."

According to the mayor, there are people who think they are invulnerable to the coronavirus and therefore don't have to adhere to the rules. "But then do it for your grandfather, grandmother, father or mother. You are spreading the virus," Aboutaleb said. "Don't be selfish. Let's get this job done together."