Searchlight, November 2004
On 5 June this year, the police of The Hague violently broke up an attempt by 350 anti- fascists to block a demonstration by a ragbag of fascist Nederlandse Volks Unie (Dutch People's Union) members and supporters. To halt the protest, the police had to arrest 330 of the anti-fascists and, in so doing, discard all the guidelines for non-violence and for public safety that they usually apply.
So what happened? Officially, the slogan of the NVU-demo was "Against US aggression" but, just a day before the D-Day commemoration, it was turned in a retro-protest against the Allied landings in Normandy in June 1944 that signalled the beginning of the end of Hitler's Third Reich.
The nazis - sixty from Belgium and Germany including a pitiful 30 from the Netherlands itself - walked through an empty park in The Hague, surrounded by police in riot gear, and carried a banner with the slogan "Combat Zionist Oppression".
The demonstration itself was an open display of antisemitism, with Constant Kusters, the NVU's leader, claiming before the demonstration that the Jews, control the US government. Although the police confiscated a flag with a Celtic cross, the international symbol for White Power among Nazis, all manner of nazi symbolism was on show, including the Wolfsangel, Triskels (swastikas with three legs), the number 88 (Heil Hitler), SS Death's Heads and T- shirts from Blood & Honour Deutschland which is outlawed in Germany. Even the Celtic cross-flag was displayed again by the Belgian Groen Rechts contingent headed by Wolf Kuss. And, for the occasion, two of the Germans present wore Waffen SS uniforms.
Despite all this, the police did not intervene, saying said that the "boundaries of tolerance were not in any way broken". This happens every time a nazi demonstration is staged in the Netherlands: the police always promise to step in and confiscate "racist material or slogans", but they never do, hiding behind operational complications and claiming "it was too dangerous to go in and arrest people".
Maybe this time, however, they were too busy bashing anti-fascists who dared to exercise their legal right to show disagreement with the mayor of the Hague's decision to let nazis parade freely in the streets and to oppose the ideas, intimidation and mobilisation of fascism.
After 350 anti-fascists had gathered in the centre of The Hague for a legal counter- demonstration and occupied the nazi march route, The Hague police, in full riot gear, surrounded the crowd and, with plain clothes police and police horses, laid into the anti- fascists, lashing out with fists, batons and boots and trying to make arrests.
As was to be expected, several people were injured, one with a broken arm, and had to attend to hospital. Over 330 anti-fascists were arrested. Some of these were threatened and insulted in police cells before being sent home with fines.
Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) has denied that the behaviour of the anti-fascists was aggressive and emphasised that it only acted in self-defence. It has also gathered witness statements about the police violence and presented them to the city mayor and all parties on the city council.
All the arrested anti-fascists were fined which means they can be prosecuted if they do not pay. AFA is now providing legal help to those arrested and will assist if the police decide to go for mass prosecutions and trials. More likely, however, is the prospect that the public prosecutor will throw out the charges because of a lack of evidence.
The complaints of the protesters are, nevertheless, very serious and charge that the police violence was deliberate and unprovoked, that the plain-clothes police wanted to fight, inviting people to resist and that police did not allow those injured to get first aid. Some demonstrators were knocked unconscious from blows to the head.
One badly injured anti-fascist was dragged along the ground by the feet and up onto a bus by the police, hitting his head on every step. The bus driver, however, did not want to deliver him to the police station because he "did not want him to die" in the bus. The victim was then dragged out again to be told: "Then you can die here, you bastard". Later he was taken away in an ambulance, but was arrested again, only being released at a train station in the middle of the night.
Those arrested and carted off to police stations say that the humiliation and insulting continued there, even if the violence lessened. Some people were held handcuffed for four hours and ignored and taunted when they needed a toilet or medicines.
Other insults by the police shocked even hardened anti-fascists. For example, when one group of arrested anti-fascists was led away, one of the police snarled: "Now we go to the gas chambers". Another one said "these people don't belong in this society and remarks like "Can we beat them up again?" and "Left scum" were also heard.
In the end, people were released without having spoken to a lawyer and banners and placards were confiscated, as well as the car that AFA had used for the sound equipment (the latter subsequently sawn into pieces by the police) and some buckets in which AFA had collected money among the demonstrators. A considerable number of personal items belonging to demonstrators also "disappeared".
The fear now is that the police are trying to close the book on the events of 5 June and that their behaviour on the day might mark the adoption of new, and much more brutal than previously, tactics to deal with anti-fascists.
By Jeroen Bosch of Alert! and Antifa-Net