04 July 2015

Aruban man killed by Dutch police in Hague

The Hague, Netherlands: the heat is on

Riot cops charge in the Schilderswijk

The police killing of Mitch Henriquez has led to three nights of protest and anti-police resistance in The Hague, Several hundreds of young people were out on the hot streets, confronting the cops

The police killing of Mitch Henriquez has led to three nights of protest and sometimes surprisingly serious anti-police resistance in the Schilderswijk neighbourhood, in the Dutch city The Hague. It is a neighbourhood where the majority of the people living there is of migrant background. Several hundreds of young people confronted the cops for hours on Monday night and again on Wednesday night. But streets in the neighbourhood were not exactly quiet on Tuesday night either.

The immediate cause of the anger was the death of Mitch Hernandez, an Aruban man who was in The Hague to visit family. He was on a festival, basically having fun. Police overheard him claiming he had a gun, jumped upon him and held him violently to the ground till he did not move anymore. Then they threw him in a police van and brought him to a police station. Only then they 'discovered”that something was very wrong with him. The next day, Mitch died. 

The claim of the public prosecution's office that he only went sick while he already was in the police car was untrue, as the prosecution itself had to admit after videos came out showing that Mitch was clearly in a very bad shape during the arrest itself, before he was even pushed into the police vehicle. The claim that Mitch had said that he was armed – the justification for his violent arrest – is disputed by at least one witness of the events. Basically, Mitch was choked to death by five police agents holding him down. 

On Wednesday the public prosecution 's office admitted that the 'probably cause' of his death was lack of oxygene caused by the police handling of him. They are on leave, but not arrested. In The Hague, you get killed when cops say you may have a gun. In The Hague you walk free, even if you are a murder suspect, as long as you are a police officer on duty when that crime was committed. Ofcourse, people thought of Ferguson and Baltimore.

The police violence of which Mitch was a victim has a clear racist dimension. Mitch was from Aruba, one of the remnants of the Dutch colonial empire, formerly part of the Dutch Antilles in the Caribbean. Antillians and Arubans form sizable communities in the Netherlands. They are generally very poor, and suffer from racist treatment by police, and racist abuse by politicians. When rightwingers get bored with blaming Muslims for all imaginable ills, they switch to targeting Antillians/Arubans, and back again. So when an Aruban man got killed by cops, people made connections. Nobody in her of his right mind believs that an white man would have been trteated as Mitch has been treated. 

The fact that politicians on Aruba immediately raised their voice helped to generate publicity. Family members and activists started to spread the news and asking critical questions. The Hague police could not push the killing under the carpet. This was, after all, not the first time. People remember the killing of seventeen year old Rishi, a person of colour as well, by police bullets in December 2012. The killer cop went free.


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