Two police officers to be prosecuted for Covid protest violence
Prosecutors in the Netherlands will pursue criminal charges against two police officers who are suspected of using excessive force against protestors at a March 14 rally against the coronavirus measures. The officers allegedly used their batons and a police dog during the arrest of a man who was hospitalized with multiple injuries after police detained him on the Malieveld in The Hague. A third officer is suspected of a similar offence in a separate incident that day.
Burgemeester en OM moeten onderzoek doen naar het optreden van de @POL_DenHaag gisteren op het Malieveld.— Amnesty NL (@amnestynl) March 15, 2021
Beelden wijzen op disproportioneel #politiegeweld.
Meerdere agenten sloegen mensen met de #wapenstok op het hoofd. Levensgevaarlijk en vrijwel nooit te rechtvaardigen. pic.twitter.com/bML6O5itng
"The violence with which they arrested a demonstrator was disproportionate," the Public Prosecution Service (OM) said in a statement. "The man suffered several injuries, including to his head, and a bite wound from a police dog." A court date has not yet been set.
The rally took place on a Sunday afternoon just before the general election. It was organized by a group known as Netherlands in Resistance which was also pushing people to vote for one of several different political groups critical to the coronavirus measures in the country. They previously arranged other rallies by calling on people to spontaneously show up for a coffee, in an effort to not be limited by social distancing measures and limitations as other organized protest and events were.
Permission was granted for a maximum of 200 demonstrators, which was already exceeded by 1 p.m. The crowd more than quadrupled in the hours that followed, despite repeated warnings from the city of The Hague and local police to avoid the area. Police also deployed large numbers to the area, bringing riot units, mounted police, and powerful water canons. The situation grew more and more tense until violence broke out at about 4 p.m. shortly after Mayor Jan van Zanen issued an order to clear the protest site.
Police accused some in the crowd of throwing heavy fireworks at authorities and attacking officers with sticks and other weapons, prompting them to retaliate with force. Police also fired warning shots during the incident.
Prosecutors said on Friday that the injured victim was swinging a jumper cable around, and refused to drop it. He then ran after mounted police, and eventually threw the cable towards another rioting individual, the OM stated.
A police dog handler wanted to make the arrest after this unfolded. He used the service dog and his baton against the victim. The protestor fell down, and grabbed the police dog by its ears. An officer from a riot unit then used his baton to strike the protestor.
Prosecutors said that a third police officer also used his service dog against a protestor who allegedly threw a beer can at police. "The man suffered a bite wound," the OM stated. The officer will be questioned in this case, as the OM has not yet decided how to handle the case.
Within days of the protest, six people filed criminal cases against police officers, and 120 others filed complaints about police violence. The OM said it investigated all cases individually before making its announcement on Friday, nine months after the rally took place.
Naar schatting staan er inmiddels een paar duizend personen op het #Malieveld. 'Iets' meer dan de maximum 200 die eerder werd toegestaan. En we hebben nog steeds de livestream op https://t.co/fylez0JI3L pic.twitter.com/Eq4Nrv7HTn— Regio15.nl (@regio15) March 14, 2021
De Mobiele Eenheid is opgetrokken naar het #Malieveld en heeft omgeroepen dat de demonstratie is ontbonden en verzoekt iedereen het terrein te verlaten. Zie de livestream op https://t.co/fylez0JI3L pic.twitter.com/XsLlPBp8Ef— Regio15.nl (@regio15) March 14, 2021