Council members voice strong criticism of restricting Palestine protest, Bruls: ‘A lot has already been allowed’

13 Jun 2024

The restriction of the Palestine protests on campus has sparked serious criticism from council members. Politicians from PvdA (Labour Party), GroenLinks, SP, and Partij voor de Dieren claim that it goes too far to prohibit almost the entire campus from protesting. Mayor Hubert Bruls responds fiercely: ‘The protests have had more freedom than I would have allowed anywhere else from day one.’

Mayor Hubert Bruls enforced tough restrictions upon the activists last Sunday. The protesters, who have been demonstrating on Radboud University’s terrain against its ties with Israel since May 13th, are now only allowed to protest on a parking space between 08:00 and 20:00.

‘Cannot be the solution’

The restriction was a reaction to the escalated actions, with Wednesday June 5th serving as the turning point. Activists ravaged a building from the university, after which Bruls ordered the tent encampment to be cleared out by the riot police as a result.

‘Such a general restriction against protesting on the entire campus; that cannot be the solution’

Some politicians think the restrictions he implemented on Sunday go too far. ‘We obviously do not condone destruction; that should be stopped. However, it should not lead to a breach in the fundamental right to peacefully demonstrate’, says PvdA council member Mika Kraft. He states that the situation at the encampment was peaceful, and now every protester is being disadvantaged – including the ones who had nothing to do with the destructions.

‘Such a general restriction to prohibit protesting on the entire campus; that cannot be the solution. It leads to uncertainty and unpleasant situations.’ He is referring to the grim atmosphere surrounding a lecture in a university room this week. The police sent everyone away without a student card – including reporters.

The questioners refer to Amnesty International, which states that ‘every demonstration must be assessed individually’. They claim that that does not happen now by discussing actions beforehand.

‘Nobody keeping order’

Bruls states that he regards the protest as one connected demonstration and that he has judged it based on the law. He says that all the protesters owe it to themselves that they now don’t have anywhere else to protest at university.

A protester is defacing the walls of Thomas van Aquinostraat 1. Photo: Johannes Fiebig.

‘Nobody is in charge of keeping order in the organisation. You cannot hide behind the fact that some people behave well and some do not. If an organisation does not make that distinction themselves, they have to accept that the restrictions apply to the entire group.’

‘Much tolerated’

He cannot find himself ‘at all’ in the criticism that the municipality has been too restricting. For example, there was no police sent to the protesters for a long while, even though the activists were breaking rules. ‘Much has actually been tolerated. Blocking traffic, camping on university terrain, intimidating behaviour, destructions: it was all largely allowed. At some point, there is a limit.’

He says that all protesters can peacefully demonstrate anywhere in the city, as long as they report it to the municipality. That has not happened recently. ‘Anyone can report themselves, but it shouldn’t go in the way it’s going right now. The positioning of “I make the rules and the end justifies all means because everything is worse in Gaza”, is not the way. That cannot be the future of the Netherlands.’

‘No right to harrass’

The regulations has not just received criticism, but also a lot support from politicians as well. The VVD in Nijmegen praises ‘the patience’ that Bruls has had, says council member Niek Kraut.

‘The right to demonstrate is fundamental, but not a right to harass. Blocking roads, disrupting other students, occupying buildings, causing destructions; it is not meant for that. Full support from us.’

Roadblock on Heyendaalseweg. Photo: Johannes Fiebig.

He thinks that the left parties are using double standards and therefore wonders if this would have also been the response if this concerned a farmers’ protest. ‘I didn’t hear them when Bruls cleared out the Keizer Karelplein a couple years ago, which we also fully supported.’

There are no double standards according to PvdA’s Kraft. ‘It is about the fact that there should not be extensive restrictions applied upon peaceful demonstrations. It is allowed to intervene against destructions and damages, which also happened at the farmers’ protests and now with the Pro-Palestine protests. We just don’t want such big general restrictions applied to an entire group of people.’

This article by Mitchel Suijkerbuijk was published earlier in De Gelderlander.

Translated by Milou Aluy-van der Meij

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