Dutch police arrested about 200 people following days of protests in The Hague after a man died in custody, media reports said Friday. The arrests were made for breaching a ban on public assembly, and police officials said most of them were local teenagers.
The arrests, which were conducted late Thursday and Friday, came after four days of protests in the mostly immigrant Schilderswijk neighborhood, after outrage over the death of a Caribbean tourist in police custody.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that he had no plans to visit Schilderswijk and described the protesters’ actions as "retarded," Reuters reported on Friday. “I’m not planning to go in person to every neighborhood where backward lilies are stirring up trouble.”
The Aruban holidaymaker, 42-year-old Mitch Henriquez, died in hospital on Sunday, a day after he was subdued by a chokehold by officers at an open-air concert. A postmortem on the body found that he died of asphyxiation. Five officers were suspended on Wednesday for their involvement in the case.
The incident sparked lingering tensions in Schilderswijk, which is home to three of the 10 poorest postcodes in the Netherlands. Almost 90 percent of the neighborhood’s residents are first- or second-generation immigrants. There have been reportedly several allegations of police brutality and discrimination.
Henriquez’s family members said that they do not believe he was a victim of racial profiling, and called for a silent, peaceful procession in his memory on Saturday. “One of the officers who was involved in the arrest was Aruban. So if you ask me, I don’t think so,” Henriquez’s cousin Alex Dijkhoff told local news station NOS, the Guardian reported.
An initial statement by prosecutors reportedly said that Henriquez had fallen ill and became unconscious once he was inside the police van, and that the officers tried to revive him. However, video shared on social media reportedly showed that he was unconscious while being hauled into the van.
The Dutch National Ombudsman's office published a report last year, which refuted claims of systematic police abuse in Schilderswijk but said that "police and citizens need to work to prevent escalation," according to the Associated Press.
However, a report published in 2013 by Amnesty International said that “the practice of ethnic profiling in the Netherlands goes beyond the level of isolated incidents,” and called on the country to abolish its stop-and-search practices, which it said perpetuates ethnic profiling practices by police.
The United States Department of State in a 2005 report also found evidence of “societal discrimination and violence against some religious and ethnic minorities” in the Netherlands.