Politicians condemn New Year violence as a “Dutch disease”

Riot police on duty in Alphen aan den Rijn. Photo: Josh Walet ANP

National and local politicians have condemned the New Year violence in the Netherlands, with some again calling for a national ban on consumer fireworks.

Legal protection minister Franc Weerwind said the perpetrators had “broken every boundary” with their attacks on emergency service workers while justice minister Dilan Yesilgöz said it is “bizarre” that some people think it is acceptable to throw fireworks and use violence against them.

Geert Wilders, leader of the far right and possible next Dutch prime minister described those responsible as “scum” and told the Telegraaf they should face “tougher action”.

Police said on Monday that several dozen police officers had been injured by fireworks during the firework frenzy. It was “a busy night with some serious incidents,” a police spokesman said.

VVD parliamentarian Ingrid Michon said her party supported calls by the police unions for tougher punishments for those who attack emergency service workers. In addition, more needs to be done to stamp out illegal fireworks, she said.

Judith Uitermark of new party NSC called for an “analysis” of the causes of the trouble. Violence has become a structural problem during the New Year festivities, she said. “You can only tackle this behaviour if you know where it comes from.”

Police and fire chiefs have called for years for a ban on consumer fireworks. However, BBB MP Lilian Helder said the Netherlands has “serious behavioral issues” which cannot be solved by a ban.

“We support the police unions in their calls for change as quickly as possible and I am curious about their ideas,” she said.

Amsterdam’s mayor Femke Halsema and city police chief Frank Pauw have renewed their calls for a total ban on consumer fireworks, after the city’s own ban was largely ignored. In total, 16 towns and cities had forbidden all consumer fireworks but the bans were flouted everywhere.

Nijmegen mayor Hubert Bruls said the ban on fireworks which the city had implemented “could not be policed”.  He told the Telegraaf it should also be an offence to have fireworks in your possession.

The trouble every New Year in the Netherlands is a “Dutch disease”, he said. “It is quite absurd that people think it is okay to throw fireworks at emergency service workers, set their neighbours’ fence on fire and scare people with loud noises. And all that, with a perverse reference to ‘tradition’.”

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