What is causing the unrest in The Hague?

Over the past days, the Schilderswijk neighbourhood of The Hague has been in a state of unrest in the evenings. A community centre was set on fire, and there were multiple clashes with the police. 

Initially, at least from an outsider’s perspective, it wasn’t clear what was happening in Schilderswijk to cause this. There was speculation that the recent heatwave and the months of disruption to normal life due to corona were playing a part in it— but as it turns out, it’s more complicated than that.

Lack of part-time jobs and community programmes

The coronavirus crisis has meant that the young people in the neighbourhood haven’t been to school since March. Most of them will also have lost part-time jobs that they would usually have taken up during the summer months. That means a lot of boredom, and potentially also the stress of reduced financial circumstances.

Moreover, community-based programmes that could have stepped in to fill the gap left by coronavirus have also been defunded by the municipality. “There have been significant cuts in the community centers in recent years. Our summer program has been cut back a lot,” says Harrie van de Louw, who runs the neighbourhood theatre De Vaillant, in an interview with NU.nl.

Disappointment of not being able to travel

Many families in the neighbourhood will also have been frustrated by the limited travel options this summer. Schilderswijk is home to a lot of people with a migration background, who would usually go to see their extended family in their country of origin every summer.

“Many families are very disappointed that they have not been able to travel to their country of origin this summer because of corona. For many of these Dutch people that is a moment that they look forward to all year,” says local entrepreneur Appie El Massaoudi.

“We do have a neighbourhood with a reputation”

Schilderswijk has been hit with a disproportionate number of coronavirus fines over the past months, according to youth worker Dean Arma. That certainly hasn’t improved the perception of the police in the neighbourhood, and might explain some of the clashes that have taken place over the past few days in the neighbourhood.

Community leaders in Schilderswijk have also pointed out that the neighbourhood suffers from very selective media attention: it only gets in the news when something is going wrong. “We do have a neighborhood with a reputation. If something goes wrong here, all media immediately get on top of it: ‘well, it’s that time again’,” says theatre director Van de Louw.

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Feature Image: DutchReview/Canva

Ailish Lalor
Ailish was born in Sydney, Australia, but grew up by a forest in south-east Ireland, which she has attempted to replace with a living room filled with plants in The Hague. Besides catering to her army of pannenkoekenplantjes, Ailish spends her days convincing her friends that all food is better slightly burnt, plotting ways to hang out with dogs and cats, and of course, writing for DutchReview.

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