A national ban on consumer fireworks is the only way to stop the rioting, damage to property and attacks on the police during the New Year celebrations, Amsterdam police chief Frank Paauw has told broadcaster NOS in an interview.
Paauw, who is also in charge of police safety, appealed to politicians after it emerged dozens of police officers had been hurt after they were pelted with fireworks in towns and villages across the country.
“The incidents we are called out to are always linked to setting off fireworks,” he said. “They create a feeling of lawlessness. There is always a lot of sympathy for the police at New Year and a lot of talk about the scandal, but that is it. And a firework ban really would help.”
At least 200 people were arrested during this year’s festivities, including 85 in Amsterdam, where consumer fireworks are officially banned.
Despite the police calls for change, the four parties currently in talks on forming a right-wing government do not back a ban. They say it is troublemakers who buy illegal fireworks abroad who spoil the atmosphere and it is them who should be tackled.
The VVD says illegal fireworks should be classified as illegal weapons, which would lead to tougher sentences for offenders. The BBB wants to talk to the police about “alternatives” to a total ban and Pieter Omtzigt, leader of the NSC, has called for a ban on balaclavas during New Year.
This year there were several reports of groups of youths in balaclavas attacking the police.
Paauw, however, has dismissed the suggestions, saying it is impossible to distinguish between legal and illegal fireworks in chaotic situations. “And balaclavas are nothing new to the police,” he said. “I would urge politicians to focus on banning fireworks, not balaclavas,” he said.
In total, 16 towns and cities had brought in their own firework bans last year, but they were widely ignored and fireworks were openly on sale. The Dutch local authorities association has also called for a national ban, saying a piecemeal approach is impossible to monitor.
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