2009 New Year celebrations quieter than last year
Whilst the damage caused by New Year celebrations was less this time around, there is still justified consternation from different parts of Dutch society following incidents across the country.
From 10am New Year’s Eve until 2am on New Year’s Day, the Dutch streets could be mistaken for a military zone. This is the only time of the year that Dutch law allows the public to use fireworks.
According to figures from the Ministry of Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK), reported in Elsevier Nieuws on 2 January 2009, there were 7,641 reported firework related ‘incidents’ across the Netherlands over New Year.
The celebrations to see 2009 in resulted in: 2,753 reported crimes relating to violence, mishandling, arson and vandalism, 1,370 cases of arson, 800 arrests, more than 325 people admitted to hospitals with firework injuries, 216 vehicles set alight, 97 incidences of violent behaviour against emergency services personnel, four schools burning, two people losing an eye, one fatality.
The consensus seems to be that the celebrations this time around were quieter than last.
Arsonists set fire to ‘only’ four schools this year, compared to 23 last year. In Zuid-Holland, there were ten percent fewer calls to the emergency services this year than last, and in The Hague vandals set fire to 50 cars, half of the damage done in 2007/8.
However, whilst the damage is less, there is still justified consternation from different parts of Dutch society following incidents across the country.
It was necessary to deploy riot police (ME) in Haarlem to protect fire officers, 150 people threw bottles and stones at police in Rotterdam and in Nijmegen a group bombarded police and fire officers with Molotov cocktails.
In Wijchen, a police station was the target of a firebomb and in Uddel emergency service crews had bottles thrown at them. Police made 52 arrests in Friesland for obstructing the emergency services.
More fun with fewer fireworks
Groen-Links councillors, Arno Bonte (Rotterdam) and David Rietveld (The Hague), have called for a ban on the public sale of fireworks through the petition “Meer Plezier met Minder Vuurwerk”. As an alternative, they want local authorities to organise professional displays like the annual event in Rotterdam.
“The Netherlands is one of the few countries where fireworks can be lit by non-professionals,” explains the petition.
The petition highlights the air pollution and smog caused by the sheer mass of fireworks, the risks for those with respiratory problems, the stress felt by older people, children and animals, as well as the financial costs.
A survey revealed that 30 percent of people do not leave home on New Year’s Eve because of the perceived danger of fireworks. David Rietveld sees this as a serious problem, adding, “The streets are for everyone, not just the 15 percent of the population who like to set off fireworks”.
Amanda van Mulligan/ Expatica