back to top
World

Protest Ban Continues In The Hague After Aruba National Died In Police Custody

Mitch Henriquez was arrested by The Hague police at a local music festival on June 27 and was pronounced dead at a hospital. Since then, 200 people were arrested and a ban on group assembly is still in place.

Posted on

A ban on group assembly remains in place in The Hague, the Netherlands, on Tuesday after hundreds of protesters were arrested last week in the wake of the death of an Aruban tourist who was in police custody.

Mitch Henriquez, 42, was stopped by about six police officers after attending a UB40 concert at a local music festival on June 27. On the following day, he died at a hospital.

At least one eyewitness told the Guardian that the officers surrounded Henriquez and beat him in the legs and head with a baton. A spokesman would not tell BuzzFeed News the reason for the arrest, and added that The Hague's police chief had no comment until the investigation is concluded.

The officers involved in the incident have all been suspended pending an investigation, Amnesty International in Holland told BuzzFeed News.

However, Amnesty International said in a statement that the investigation hasn't gone far enough.

"The announced investigation is an important step, but according to Amnesty this is insufficient," the press release reads.

"To reduce the chance of similar incidents, the police conduct has to be critically analyzed from a broader perspective than a judicial, criminal law perspective alone."

On June 29, the day after Henriquez's death, hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the station where police took him, resulting in violent clashes with authorities. An autopsy ordered by the Dutch prosecution service found Henriquez died of asphyxiation while in police custody.

Henriquez was a self-employed businessman who was visiting relatives in The Hague. Initial claims that he had a gun in his possession at the time of his arrest were later found not to be true.

Henriques's family have told Dutch media they do not believe he was a victim of racism. They appealed to protesters to stop the violence and took to social media to ask for a silent march in the memory of Henriquez.

Tensions have been particularly high in the city's district of Schilderswijk, where 85% of the population is made up of immigrants – it is also one of the poorest areas in the whole country.

For years, local police officers have been accused of discrimination and using excessive force against local residents.

This video reportedly shows The Hague police chasing and arresting a number of protesters on the day after Henriquez's death:

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

Nog steeds worden er dingen op het vuur gegooid. De politie grijpt nog niet in. #Mitch #DenHaag

Translation: "Even with protesters burning things down, the police is still not intervening."

Manifestashon kontra polis na Den Haag despues di morto di e Arubano Mitch Henriquez #mitch #denhaag #aruba

Translation: Demo against The Hague police following the death of Aruba national Mitch Henriquez.

As a response to the civil unrest, police last week declared a ban on public assembling in Schilderswijk district. Local residents, especially teenagers, defied the order, resulting in the arrest of some 200 people on Friday.

The civil unrest and the circumstances of Henriquez's death has drawn comparisons to a series of tragic incidents in the U.S. over the past year in which a number of black men have died at the hands of white police officers.

That connection, though, is being swiftly dismissed by Dutch officials.

"There is absolutely nothing in common between the work of American police forces and the Dutch police and the Hague force," The Hague mayor, Jozias van Aartsen, told NOS, the Netherlands public broadcaster, on Friday. "If I thought that was the attitude of the police in The Hague I wouldn't stand here for another second," he said.

The Netherlands is known for being one of the most progressive societies in the Western world. It was one of the first countries to legalise same-sex marriage and has tolerant drug policies.

For some, however, the country's reputation for tolerance and open-mindedness can also be an issue.

"The idea of Dutch tolerance is part of the problem, because it blocks and hinders us Dutch from being self-critical and just facing the issue of racism in the Netherlands," Sinan Cankaya, an anthropologist who has studied racial profiling by the Amsterdam police, told the Associated Press.

Felipe Araujo is the overnight homepage editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Felipe Araujo at felipe.araujo@BuzzFeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.