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  • Writer's pictureOscar Schulze Casademunt

Tracing back the steps of the occupation

Updated: Jun 25

Last week the city of Groningen was rocked by the biggest demonstration and police response so far this year. Following a large march through the city centre, a small group of pro-Palestine protestors entered a University of Groningen Faculty of Arts building on Oude Boteringestraat. They barricaded the door and dropped a banner from the top window, which criticised the university’s stance on the Israel-Gaza conflict.


The police response was swift and decisive. Around fifty officers were present at the scene and the police deployed police dogs, riot police and members of the Royal Military Constabulary. At least two arrests were made across the afternoon and early evening. 


At the same time, riot police were dispatched to evict the encampment at the Harmonie square, which had been established 31 days prior. A spokesperson for the encampment says there has been constant dialogue with the mayor and the municipality, and they were given assurances that the encampment could continue as long as it remained a peaceful form of protest.


The police have stated that protestors were hostile, and protestors have made allegations of police brutality against the force. Given the complexity of the events that transpired, the Groninger set out to reconstruct the chain of events that led from demonstration to detainment at the occupation. The Groninger obtained video footage from protestors and has established a chronological timeline of what happened. This was done by reading through the metadata and timestamps of the videos and photos, and by cross-referencing these timings with protestors who were present at the scene.




Graphic by The Groninger




Graphic by The Groninger


15.36: On an overcast Wednesday, over a hundred protestors gather in the Grote Markt to listen to speeches made by the protestors themselves. One of the more prominent speakers is Laleh Almarjani, a spokesperson for the pro-Palestine protestors who had been in direct contact with the mayor of Groningen, Koen Schuiling.




Photos by Obed Brinkman


16.00: Protestors stage a ‘die-in’ on the busy shopping street Herestraat, unfurling a banner that reads ‘Boycott, Divest, we will not stop, we will not rest’. The banner represents some key commitments of one of the main pro-Palestine groups, Groningen for Palestine. Among these, they demand the disclosure and severing of ties between the University of Groningen and Israeli academic institutions as well as divestment from companies complicit in Israeli military activity in Gaza.


16.17: The march picks up momentum and numbers, driving down Herestraat and moving westwards along Gedempte Zuiderdiep. Protestors loudly chant “Free Palestine” and “Stop bombing Rafah, stop bombing Lebanon.”




Video by the Groninger


16.30: A small group of protestors enter a Faculty of Arts building on Oude Boteringestraat, occupying it and barricading the door behind them. The main body of the protest cheers them on from outside.


16.32: Police officers who had been accompanying the march move to enter the building, but are met by protestors who rush to the doorway to block them off. The group swells in numbers and after a few minutes, the police officers retreat to the side of the doorway. The protestors celebrate the triumph, cheering “the people united will never be defeated!”


17.27: After an hour, a banner is dropped from the topmost window of the building, which reads “RUG RUG WE CHARGE YOU WITH GENOCIDE”. Sirens and whistles can be heard in the distance, signalling the imminent arrival of more police. The police state that at this point they were deployed to evict protestors from the building after commands from the local triangle (the mayor, police chief and public prosecution). A spokesperson for the pro-Palestine protestors tells us that the banner display was planned out, but the occupation was completely spontaneous. “We stand in full solidarity with it of course,” she says, “but the occupation was supposed to be an open occupation, so not barricaded in any shape or form.”




Photos by Obed Brinkman


17.29: Just over a hundred metres away, around twenty officers form a perimeter, blocking off access to the road leading to the back of the occupied building. They push forward in waves, initially pushing and shoving. After moving forward a few metres, officers begin to use batons, striking out at protestors who shout “we are peaceful what are you?”. Several people are helped away from the group of protestors, in need of medical attention.




Photos by Obed Brinkman


17.40: Police reinforcements arrive at the occupied building, and with increased numbers they succeed in pushing back the protestors, freeing the doorway. A dense perimeter is established around the doorway, numbering around twenty police officers. A police dog barks at the protestors. A policeman with a riot shield stands by the door, consulting his colleagues. At this point, police allege that smoke bombs were set off in the building, but video footage and witness accounts obtained by the Groninger contradict this claim.




Video by the Groninger


17.52: An unmarked white van pulls up to the police perimeter and four police officers clad in black climb out. They are members of the Royal Military Constabulary, a national gendarmerie force that assists with military and border control operations. They are often deployed in situations that have potential to escalate, but their presence at a civilian protest is a rarity.


17.59: Minutes later, the police breach the door and move into the occupied building.


18.07: The police move through the occupied building, pushing and shoving the protestors as officers detain them. One police officer pushes forward with a riot shield. Another officer pulls his balaclava up his face to cover his mouth and pulls the window blinds down. It is impossible to see what is going on in this room.




Photos by Obed Brinkman


18.35: The occupying protestors are removed from the building. One protestor is detained by two officers on the pavement. His face is pressed against the side of the pavement, as one officer kneels on his back and the other twists his arm. He is taken into an unmarked white van.


18.43: Protestors form a human chain to block off the van. The van slowly drives into them and, after a few minutes, breaks through. Once the van is out of sight, the crowd gradually disperses.




Video by Obed Brinkman


Following the events last week, protestors have reacted angrily. Over a hundred protestors gathered in front of the Academie university building on Tuesday to protest against police violence and racial profiling, with individual testimonies from protestors who were detained. The Groninger contacted the police for comment, who replied with a statement on Wednesday's events. They state that officers "keep the Netherlands safe and restore order when necessary", and the occupation represented a situation which was not peaceful and a "breach of peace". While they maintain that police force is justified, they state that any complaints about conduct can be submitted to the police and the Use of Force Committee.


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