Critics pile on Tilburg mayor over massive Willem II party
Theo Weterings, mayor of Tilburg and chairman of the local security region, is facing a great deal of criticism for allowing hundreds of Willem II supporters to gather on a square and watch the Europa League match against Rangers FC on Thursday evening. Photos and video on social media show the fans crowding close together, dancing and singing, with little to no regard for the rules in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Criticism streamed in on the municipality of Tilburg's Facebook page, with many people calling for Weterings to resign. "Unbelievable that the mayor allowed this to happen," one person wrote. Another: "I have no words. This none-action as a city that was hit hard in the first wave. Then you as government lose all credibility."
Ruud Kuun of the union for enforcement officers NBB called it "incomprehensible" that this party was allowed. "Very strange that this is possible and that the pubs elsewhere have to close earlier," he said to NOS. He thinks the party should have been banned, because it was clear well in advance that enforcement would be impossible.
Maarten van Brink of ACP said that the police are "angry and disappointed", according to the broadcaster. "This leads to confusion in society. Also directly involved police officers really do not understand what happened here."
Mayor Weterings said Tilburg chose to allow the party, because a party was going to happen either way and at least in this way the authorities could keep track of who attended for eventual source and contact tracing. He added on Friday morning that he will make a different decision next time.
VVD leader Klaad Dijkhoff said the party made him a little despondent. "I can imagine that they wanted to do it in a controlled manner, so that they have insight into it. But then you also have to control it and enforce. Experiment failed," he said.
The Elizabeth Tweesteden Hospital in Tilburg said it regrets that the coronavirus measures were not followed at the party. "It is up to the municipal council to determine what they think of the decision that led to this. We continue to call on everyone to take responsibility and adhere to the measures to contain the virus," the hospital said.
The Ministers of Health also commented on the party, but blamed it on the Willem II supporters more than on the local authorities.
Minister Tamara van Ark for Sport called the supporters' behavior worrisome. Football fans also need to follow the rules. "It is urgently necessary to do that, because we can see from the figures that the number of infections is rising That shouting is really unacceptable. That happened yesterday, that is worrisome and it must not be repeated," she said to NOS before the start of the Council of Ministers meeting on Friday.
Van Ark added that everyone wants to be able to enjoy sport. "But the deal is that you do it in silence."
Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said that everyone who saw the pics on social media agree that the party was irresponsible. "It starts with the behavior of the people themselves. This is the fastest way to get rid of the freedoms we had won by now," he said to NOS.
The government understands the dilemma, De Jonge said. "It is not the mayor who has to keep the virus under control, nor a Minister, but we must do it together," the Minister said.