Rotterdam: 'Rotterdam feels like an occupied territory'

For three days Rotterdam Moroccans demonstrated against the violence in the Gaza Strip.  Twice things got out of hand.

The blazing demonstrations are more than a protest against Israel, says social worker Mohammed Tachi, who organized one of the demonstrations.  "These boys feel related to the Palestinians."

In the mosques it was yet hammered in thus.  "You may protest, but without aggression," the imams said.  The sermon should have kept back Rotterdam mosque goers from misbehaving in the demonstrations against the violence in the Gaza Strip.  And yet it went amiss.  Groups of young Moroccans misbehaved in the center of town, so much so that mayor Aboutaleb expressed his disgust about it yesterday.

"I came between them, spoke with them.  But they are angry," says Tachi about the demonstrating youth.

He tried to explain the anger within his community.  According to him many feel related to the Palestinian case, because they themselves - just like the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip - feel discriminated.  "The Moroccans in Rotterdam also have the feeling of living in an occupied territory.  Certainly 70% of the Moroccans in the city feel that way.  They are body searched more often than others, are the victims of the police more often."

The demonstrations of the past weekend were about more than just Gaza, according to the social worker.  "These people feel they're the victims of an indirect war, that hte police conducts against them."

The demonstrations organized by TAchi Friday on Coolsingel street was yet calm, but Saturday and Sunday bystanders were troubled and anti-Jewish slogans were called out.  "Unacceptable," says the mayor Aboutaleb.

Tachi asks for understanding.  "Before he punishes the boys, he should first talk with the representatives of the Moroccan community.  I'm somebody that people come to if they have problems.  If he works together with us, we can solve it, but in the past, somebody else made the plan in the end."

Tachi is a famous figure in the Moroccan community. He's been organizing demonstrations for year, brings Ramadan food to prisoners and dedicates himself to human rights through various foundations.  "I got that from my father, who was just so.  My brother is chairman of a mosque, so it's in the family."

Tachi's language fluency is limited.  A friend translates, but regularly he takes over the talking, because the story must be told well.  Rather than condemn the youth from his community, he speaks about possible solutions for the problems in Rotterdam.  After the n-th project of the community without results, according to him, Tachi wants to organize activities together with people from their own community in community centers, schools and sport centers which are closed in the evenings.  

"With help from the municipality we could start off such projects.  Help youth with their homework and let them play sports.  This way we'll keep them off the streets."


The racist and offending slogans during the Gaza protest this weekend were "absolutely unacceptable," says mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb.

From now on the police must arrest demonstrators who express hateful anti-Jewish slogans, as soon as possible.  This can also be after the protest, once calms is restored.  Action against wrong behavior should always be taken as quickly as possible.

Aboutaleb will discuss the unannounced protest today in his weekly talk with top police officers.  He wants to prevent a repetition.  Last Saturday and Sunday dozens of youth marched through central Rotterdam in a spontaneous demonstration against the attacks of Israel on the Gaza Strip.  On the Koopgoot street a security officer and Leefbaar councilor were attacked.

The police was not there.  Later an agent did speak to the youth regarding discriminating words in Arabic, but according to witnesses hate-words in Dutch were also expressed against Jews.  Since they lacked an Israeli flag, an Ajax shirt was set aflame. [ed: The Ajax Football club uses Jewish/Israeli imagery and symbols].
The mayor said through his spokesperson that "Everybody has a right to make his or her opinion known provided that the content of a demonstration is not criminal, offensive or inciting."

He thinks it's 'unacceptable' that the youth marched without notice, as demanded by the local ordinances.  Also because the march led through the Coolsingel and through the shopping streets, where the public was troubled by it.  The police said earlier that the bustle in the city was a reason not to ban the demonstration but rather make agreements with the youth.  The fear was that a ban would lead to problems.

Sources: AD 1, 2 (Dutch)

No comments: