1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Multiple arrests after nights of riots in The Hague

Sou-Jie van Brunnersum
August 15, 2020

The mayor of the Dutch city had issued an emergency order after scores of young people took to the streets, pelting police officers with stones and fireworks. Social workers cited "coronavirus boredom" as the motive.

A man is handcuffed by police in The Hague
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/N. Wenstedt

Dutch police have arrested 27 people and seized six scooters after three consecutive nights of rioting in the Schilderswijk neighborhood of The Hague, police said Saturday.

City Mayor Jan van Zanen issued an emergency order on Friday evening for the Hoefkade-Vaillantlaan area but around 50 young people gathered in Vaillantlaan despite the ban.

Some were immediately arrested after refusing to obey police orders.

Read more: Dutch police find Netherlands' largest cocaine lab

Rioters pelted stones and heavy fireworks at police officers, wrecked police cars and ignited fires. A building that stores sports equipment in Jacob van Campenplein was burned down.

Those arrested are accused of rioting, public assault, threatening behavior and violating the emergency order put in place to prevent further unrest.

The Hague's mayor said some of the rioters are residents of Schilderswijk but that most came from other parts of the city or beyond The Hague.

The central Dutch city of Utrecht on Friday also saw a night of violent rioting in the district of Kanaleneiland, Deputy Mayor Lot van Hooijdonk wrote in a letter to the city council.

Read more: Netherlands sends first herring catch to German medics as coronavirus thank you

Garbage bins set on fire
Several hundred people gathered with some setting off fireworks and starting a fireImage: picture-alliance/dpa/N. Wenstedt

Pandemic puts life at 'standstill'

There was confusion over the motive for the unrest. The neighborhood has been the scene of frequent riots in the past and is one of the poorest in the Netherlands with a high immigrant population.

Some reports suggested that the riots were fueled by the decision by water authorities to prevent children from opening fire hydrants to cool off during last week's heatwave.

The Hague youth ambassador Aad van Loenen hinted that residents were often the victims of racial profiling by authorities. He told Dutch broadcaster NOS that "young people of color in groups of two or more people" are often questioned by police in the area and treated with suspicion, making them "feel no longer welcome."

Youth workers from the Schilderswijk neighborhood told NOS that young people in the area are "bored" and "lack structure" in a summer struck by the coronavirus pandemic.

Youth worker Dean Arma said that the riots initially begun with small groups of young people seeking a "thrill."

"They were waiting for someone to have the guts to start," Arma told NOS, adding that young people then started destroying cars, throwing fireworks, petrol bombs and pelting officers.

Van Loenen told NOS: "If you close schools for months, hardly open any swimming pools and chase young people away from Scheveningen {seaside resort}, then you get this."

He added: "It seems like they are on vacation. I understand that life has come to a standstill for the youth."

Read more: Burqa ban, face mask laws frustrate Dutch Muslims

No vacationing 

Many Turkish and Moroccan families live in the Schilderswijk, van Loenen said, adding that ad many cannot travel home this summer to visit relatives or vacation due to the pandemic.

"Normally, they are away for weeks during the summer. There is no money for a holiday in the Netherlands," van Loenen said. "When young people come together, you get group behavior, then things escalate."

Van Loenen said that as long as there will be COVID-19, more riots are likely to take place. He called on the Dutch government to provide young people with more activities to add "structure" to their lives.

At the same time, he said young people should be given more responsibilities in their neighborhoods.

"If you are responsible for something yourself, it is more difficult to destroy it again."

Skip next section Explore more