Riot police to strike on Sunday during Amsterdam anti-lockdown protest
The Mobiele Eenheid, a unit of the police department tasked with quelling riots and public disorder, plans to stop working on Sunday during a protest in Amsterdam against the Dutch coronavirus policy. The municipality received notification of the labor action on Wednesday morning.
The chairman of police union ACP, Gerrit van de Kamp, would not rule out the possibility that Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema will initiate legal proceedings to prevent the police strike from happening. A spokesperson for Halsema said the situation was being studied, and the office was not yet ready to comment on the situation.
For Sunday's demonstration, called the Mars van de Menselijke Verbinding, or "March of the Human Connection" in English, two platoons of the Mobiele Eenheid were going to be called up. That called for 16 police vans with eight police officers each, or 128 riot police officers in total.
The police unions together expect this demonstration to attract many people and they, "call on the officers on duty to stop working for a few hours before, and during, this gathering in protest against the excessive work and scheduling pressure which police officers have been exposed to for years."
The planned riot police strike on Sunday is part of a series of labor actions titled Wake-Up Call 2022. With this, the police unions want to draw attention to the police capacity problems. The first action was by the the Aliens Police division in Ter Apel on Tuesday. The unions call it "it is only logical that the second action in this context takes place before and during a massive demonstration against the coronavirus policy. In 2022, guarding order and safety during this type of gathering is one of the tasks that, due to the chronic understaffing of the National Police, has become a nationwide battle of attrition." According to the unions, "sensible political policy" could have prevented the current high workload and the chronic understaffing the police unions allege.
Incidentally, the municipality has set conditions for the demonstration against the coronavirus policy, given the lockdown and the relatively high number of infections in Amsterdam. A maximum of 3,500 people can participate, and they must keep 1.5 meters away from each other. The participants are not allowed to march along a route, and they must remain at Museumplein.
A spokesperson for Halsema said that the police stoppage announcement created "a new situation," and that its possible effect on the demonstration will be carefully examined.
Reporting by ANP.