02 July 2015

Police, protesters clash in Netherlands over death of Aruban man after arrest

Daily Herald

AMSTERDAM--Violence broke out in The Hague on Monday as police clashed with protesters demonstrating against the death of a man from the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba after he was arrested by police at a music festival.

About 200 people marched to a police station in the Schilderswijk neighbourhood on Monday night. The protesters threw rocks and police charged the crowd with truncheons. It was not immediately clear if there were injuries. Earlier, Dutch prosecutors launched an inquiry into the man's death.

Videos posted on social media showed him pinned to the ground by five white male Dutch officers, prompting comparisons with incidents in the United States that have led to protests and riots over police use of force against black suspects. Prosecutors initially said in a statement on Sunday the 42-year-old "became unwell on the way to jail" and was taken to hospital in a critical condition.

In the videos, one officer can be seen using choke-hold to subdue the man, identified by media in the Netherlands and Aruba as Mitch Henriquez. He appears to be unconscious before being loaded into a police van. One officer is seen checking for a pulse.

The protest on Monday night turned ugly after nine o'clock, when police refused to enter into a dialogue with the protesters outside the station. Protestors walked to the side of the police station and threatened a small group of officers. After that stones and other debris was thrown at the officers and the police station after which the riot police intervened. A water cannon and police dogs were deployed.

The protestors subsequently spread out over the neighbourhood. Incidents were reported till deep into the night.

Henriquez was visiting his family in the Netherlands. He fell severely ill after he was arrested Saturday night at the Night at the Park music festival in The Hague's Zuiderpark. He passed away at a hospital on Sunday evening. The National Detectives have initiated an investigation under the auspices of the Prosecutor's Office in The Hague to determine whether there is a relation between Henriquez's arrest and the handling of the police officers.

According to a press release of the Prosecutor's Office, the victim was arrested after he had shouted that he was carrying a weapon. This wasn't the case, it appeared after his arrest. "The man resisted arrest and that is why police used force to take him to the police station. What happened after that is being investigated," it was stated.

Stills of videos taken by witnesses show at least four police officers forcing the victim to the ground and cuffing him. Other photos taken of him at the hospital showed that the man had been dealt harsh blows, as his face was all swollen.

Two witnesses were seen on Monday placing a rose on the spot where Henriquez was arrested. "I saw how the man, who was already on his belly on the ground, was being hit on the head with a police bat, while five policemen were constraining him," one witness said.

The Prosecutor's Office initially stated on Sunday that Henriquez had become ill in the ambulance. On Monday, it was reported that this may not have been the case. The Prosecutor has decided to order an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death, it was announced on Monday. The National Detectives are calling on witnesses to come forward with information. Henriquez's death was national news in the Netherlands on Monday.

The Hague Mayor Jozias van Aartsen said on Monday he wants a "careful, critical, but also speedy investigation, so it becomes clear within the shortest possible time what exactly happened." He has sent his condolences to the family and has offered to speak with them. "I will offer them all possible assistance," Van Aartsen said.



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