Chief of Police Van Essen condemns violence by churchgoers against journalists

The violence against two journalists by churchgoers in Krimpen aan den IJssel and Urk on Sunday morning is unacceptable. That is what police chief Henk van Essen said in the TV program Buitenhof. However, there is also criticism of the actions of the police in the violent incidents.

In Krimpen aan den IJssel, a reporter from Rijnmond was kicked and beaten outside the Mieras Church. This also happened to a reporter from PowNed at the Sion Church in Urk, who was also hit in the parking lot of the prayer house.

“Journalists must be able to do their job,” said police chief Van Essen about this later that day. “What I just saw in the images has little to do with tolerance,” said the national police chief.

The police were present around the churches in both places, but were unable to prevent the incidents and acted reluctantly afterwards in both cases. Broadcaster Dominique Weesie of PowNed is outraged about this: according to him, such acts of violence require “brutal intervention, which was neglected this morning in Urk, but also in Krimpen aan den IJssel. And we blame the police for that.”

Police chose to keep calm

The police state that the suspect in the incident in Krimpen, a 43-year-old person from Krimpen, happened during the church service and not afterwards, as was previously believed. “In consultation with a church servant, the suspect was escorted outside and immediately arrested.”

A police spokesperson said in response to the incidents in Urk that the police were also present there, both visible and invisible. “We have performed at different times, but you cannot prevent everything at every moment, even if you are there. We are sorry that this has happened. Journalists must be able to do their job.”

According to the spokesperson, the police in Urk mainly focused on de-escalation. Initially, friction arose between journalists on the street and passers-by, he indicates, but later it calmed down. “The de-escalation apparently helped: journalists could do their jobs again and churchgoers could go to church.”

The data is known of the motorist who allegedly hit the PowNed reporter, the spokesman said. “We did not immediately proceed to arrest this morning. We wanted to keep the peace. Fortunately no one was injured.”

The same law applies to churchgoers and journalists

General secretary Thomas Bruning of the Dutch Association of Journalists calls it “deep sadness what happened here”. He calls on church boards to take their responsibility and to broadly condemn these aggressive acts. He is also surprised that the police in Urk did not seem to intervene immediately when a car collided with the PowNed reporter.

Mayor Martijn Vroom of the municipality of Krimpen aan den IJssel says in a response that he thinks it is terrible that a journalist has been attacked.

“It is the constitution that allows churchgoers to go to church, despite many requests from the city council not to do so or with restraint,” said Vroom. “That same constitution protects the press from doing its work freely and openly. Journalists, don’t get it!”
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