Dutch politicians facing more and increasingly serious threats: report
Dutch parliamentarians and party leaders are facing more and more threats, not only on social media, but also harassment on the street and letters sent to their homes. The tone of these threats are also becoming increasingly serious, resulting in politicians adjusting their daily lives and behavior for fear of their own and their family's safety, NRC reports after speaking to a number of threatened politicians.
D66 leader Rob Jetten is used to getting a flood of homophobic remarks on his social media accounts and people shouting at him when he is on the street. But he also received a series of typed letters, sent by the same person, he said to NRC. The content was much the same as online threats against him, but the "old fashioned" way in which they were sent made an impression. "Someone made an effort to keep writing these letters and posting them. That was much more in my personal space," Jetten said.
The threats "unsettles" Jetten, he said. "I sometimes worry about my colleagues, family members or employees. That weighs heavily on me." When speaking about climate policy in Twente in January, Jetten's car was forced of the road and covered in stickers by protesting farmers. The atmosphere was threatening, Jetten said, especially for the employee who was alone in the surrounded car.
PVV leader Geert Wilders can also say a thing or two about threats. He has been under extra security for at least 16 years. His office in parliament is screened off and he has been living in a safe house for years. According to Wilders, the threats against him are becoming increasingly international. "In the beginning it was Dutch groups or individuals who wanted to hurt me, nowadays many threats come from Pakistan, Iran or other countries," he said to NRC.
Wilders files threat reports with the police "hundreds of times a month", he said. "It is a lot at the same time. My closet is full of declaration forms."
Around New Year's, GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver was alerted to a video on social media, showing a boy shooting a carbide at an image of Klaver. At a farmers' protest a few months earlier, there was a pickup truck with a coffin that had "Jesse" written on it. During a farmers protest on the Binnenhof just before Christmas recess, Klaver had to be escorted into parliament by the police. "I don't tend to be scared, but this was terrifying," Klaver said to the newspaper.
The creator of the coffin later said it was a joke. "But it normalizes mocking with violence. For the first time I thought: something has really changed in the Netherlands. When you are cycling in the street, you sometimes hear terms like 'traitor'. I never experienced that before," Klaver said to the newspaper. "This has been happening online for some time. But normal conversation on the street, essential for a politician, is becoming increasingly difficult. That worries me."
On Monday evening, an FvD gathering in Arnhem was paused over a security issue. FvD leader Thierry Baudet was escorted out of the gathering, but later returned once the police determined everything was safe. A few weeks ago, CDA parliamentarian Pieter Omtzigt was threatened as he walked to parliament. Other parliamentarians also mentioned that the atmosphere is getting more grim, according to the newspaper.
Wilders said he doesn't let the threats influence his behavior much. "A columnist once wrote: Wilders must have gotten tunnel vision. I dispute that. Despite all the limitations, I still have a feeling for what's going on, otherwise I would have had at most one seat," the PVV leader said.
Klaver made some adjustments on a personal level. For example, he tries not to arrive at public gatherings on set times. But he added: "When people approach me, I make time for it. Aggression and anger often hide fear and misunderstanding. As a politician, I have to ensure that the small group of screamers is driven to the flanks, and I have to keep talking to the rest."
Jetten also tries to see the people behind the threat. In a few weeks, he will meet with a student who got community service for threatening him. "The threat was very severe. Later he sent me a letter that touched me so much that I invited him to visit. His home situation was complex, there were all kinds of sad things in his life. I hope such a 15-year-old boy will get something positive out of it"