"Anti-social" dissidents, not activists, tried rioting after colonialism protests: Mayor
Two groups of outside subversives not related to anti-colonialist protests in Hoorn were likely responsible for fighting with authority figures on Friday night, the city said in a statement. Twelve people were arrested in the disturbances, including one who urinated on the Jan Pieterszoon Coen statue at the center of two competing demonstrations about the prominence of colonial-era figures in public squares.
"These groups deliberately misused the demonstration to bring anti-social riots. Simply outrageous behavior, which has absolutely nothing to do with freedom of expression," said Hoorn's mayor, Jan Nieuwenburg. He said police and the municipality were prepared for several scenarios, which is why any violence was quickly quelched. "This could have turned out quite differently. I am very grateful to the police for their efforts."
Two protests were held back to back, beginning with one in favor of keeping the statue in place at about 5:30 p.m. It was attended by fewer than two dozen people. A protest against the statue drew several hundred soon after.
"Unfortunately, unrest arose after the demonstration against the Coen monument. A group of about 100 young people left the demonstration on the Pelmolenpad around 8:20 pm and moved to the city center, in the direction of the Roode Steen," the city said. The Roode Steen is the centrally located square where the statue sits atop a pedestal. "The impression is that this group was not involved in the demonstration, but deliberately came to Hoorn to riot. They threw stones at the police horses and threw patio furniture."
A police officer and police horse received minor injuries after being pelted with stones, the city said. A reporter for newspaper Telegraaf was also punched in the gut, for which the newspaper planned to press charges. "Then another group of 100 to 200 young people at the [train] station intervened in the situation. This group also turned against the police and disturbed public order. This group then also moved towards the Roode Steen."
Nieuwenburg ordered the square evacuated, and all cafes in the area were forced to close for the night. Calm was restored at about midnight.
Three of those taken into custody were carrying golf clubs, the city said, and local media reported that another was seen wielding a field hockey stick. Eight were held for several crimes, including assault, overt violence, and disobeying police orders. They were still in custody on Saturday afternoon.