Wanneer: 23/12/2016 – 23:13
I’m fifty years old now. I inherited my father’s anarchism and critical mind. Being a grandmother myself by now, I find the inspiration and determination to fight for a better world in both my grandchildren. I’ll take a stand against racism, against capitalism, sexism and xenophobia, against police violence and state repression. On the 16th of December late at night, six cops raided my house, confiscated my computer and arrested me for – as they said – incitement and threat of public violence.
Four weeks earlier, anti-racist demonstrators intended to protest against the presence of ‘Black Pete’ at the Saint Nicholas Parade at Rotterdam. This blackfaced character has been subject of heated discussions in the Netherlands and has also been condemned by the UN Committee against Discrimination. Still, year after year, Blackface appears at parades, protected by mayors, politicians and mainstream media. Reason enough to protest against this utterly racist ‘tradition’.
But the demonstrators didn’t get far. Even before they arrived at the parade, the police decided to proceed to mass arrests. No less than 198 demonstrators were arrested that afternoon.
During these arrests, extreme violence was used by the cops on the peaceful protestors. People witnessed chokeholds, punches with fists in faces, pulling hear and many, many hits with batons. Luckily, a lot of people were able to film the violence that was used and in the days after the events, a dozen video’s of the police violence appeared online.
Although to some the Netherlands might still have an image of a tolerant and democratic haven of freedom, this police violence and repression is nothing new here. Numerous activist comrades, anti-racists, squatters and anarchists can tell you about the sharp rise of repression within the past five years.
Merely a week after the mass arrests at Rotterdam, 166 activist were arrested at once during a planned demonstration at the Hague. Same scenario: the arrests were done even before the demonstration could properly start and the police used a lot of violence again. Official reason for the arrests: some of the protestors had covered their faces.
You will not always find me right at the barricades. Throughout the years and after many actions and campaigns, I found my way of contributing to the activist struggle: I facilitate trainings and workshops to the activist community. Trainings about sustainable activism, about mental resistance during actions and arrest, about how to withstand interrogation techniques. And somehow I more or less specialized in Support & Recovery: practical support for activists who have been traumatized by police violence. Being confronted with the devastation caused by state violence, it’s perhaps easy to understand why police violence pisses me off.
After the events at Rotterdam, I decided to blow off some steam. Not in a very serious way, it was more of a little project in between other things. I spent three days going through all the footage that was available online and ended up with a lot of screenshots of the cops involved in the violence during the Rotterdam mass arrests. I could have just published these screenshots, together with an article on my website about these events, but I decided to do it in a more satiric and playful way. I turned the whole thing into a fake app, based on the Pokemon Go hype. The fictional app was called ‘Poke-a-Cop GO’ and it had a ‘CopDex’ of Pokemon-like characters, but with the heads of the cops from the screenshots. Players were supposed to throw ‘Bricks’ instead of Pokeballs. I made fake screenshots of the app, edited a nice promotional video about the app and published the whole thing on my website, with an article in marketing style. Last but not least, I added pictures of a small database with photo’s of the cops.
As I said, not much of a serious action, just a verbal poke with a little bit of a bite at the end.
The cops did take it serious, though. They barged into my house on a late Friday evening, unplugged my computer and confiscated it together with some USB sticks, my cell phone and my son’s laptop. I was taken to a police station 100 kilometers west and – the next day – forced to remove the article from my website.
I face charges of incitement and threat with public violence. They kept my computer and cell phone for ‘further investigation’.
Besides the fact that these charges are utterly ridiculous considering the factual matter, what happens here is extremely worrying when looked upon in a broader political context.
My case will be the fourth case of political activists facing charges of incitement in only three years (1, 2 and 3). None of these cases involved calls for violence. Or even for any other criminal fact, as the State likes to put it and as ‘incitement’ is defined by law. Incitement is not the point. Incitement as a charge is only increasingly abused as an efficient way of criminalizing every form of criticism against the State and the police.
Recently, the Dutch parliament agreed upon a law in design that would prohibit any depiction, photos or videos, of recognizable police officers. So, let’s say that you witness cops choking someone to death during an arrest and you film what is going on – then the police will immediately come up to you and force you to delete the footage. Or prosecute you if you dare to put it online. Cops killing someone and then forcing bystanders to delete footage of what happened: this is not an imaginary scenario. This actually happened two days ago, when an undocumented refugee was choked to death by the cops who arrested him and bystanders were forced to remove the footage.
Does it sound unreal, cops choking people to death? It’s not. Two years ago, five cops killed Mitch Henriquez during a festival at The Hague, by a choke hold. All five of them stated that they did not choke him, but that Mitch had become ‘unwell’ in the police van, according to them probably due to substance abuse. But the footage, recorded by witnesses, clearly showed that Mitch was choked and already was unconscious when he was dragged into the van.
It was due to this footage, that the police eventually had to admit that Mitch was strangled during the arrest. None of these five cops has been convicted – or has even been fired after the events.
The deaths of the nameless refugee and Mitch Henriquez are not just isolated incidents. There has been a sharp rise of police violence in the past years here in the Netherlands, followed by severe repression of those who dare to criticize it. But both the rise of violence and repression only lead to one conclusion: now, it is more important than ever to withstand repression and to publicly denounce police violence.
And isn’t it ironic? Or is ‘hypocrite’ the more appropriate term, when cops kill people but then feel ‘threatened’ by a fake app screenshot?
So let me make this clear, for once and for all: no charges of incitement or threat will keep me from denouncing police violence. And I call for international awareness and support, but even more: for solidarity in the struggle against institutional fascism on the rise.