Police intervention on campus was joint action

The Eindhoven municipal council has answered questions submitted by Partij voor de Dieren (Party for the Animals) about police intervention on the TU/e campus on March 15. According to Partij voor de Dieren, the police used disproportionate force during a peaceful protest against Shell’s presence at the Career Expo. The party also wanted to know who picked up the phone and asked the police to intervene.

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photo Bridget Alcione Spoor

It remained unclear for a long time exactly how the police arrived at TU/e in such large numbers and with so many vans just when the demonstration took place. Various stories circulated about who called the police: the organizing committee of the Career Expo, security, building management, the Executive Board or the Eindhoven municipality. That question at least has now been answered. “The police informed the municipality on March 15 around noon (about the upcoming demonstration, ed.), after which we contacted TU/e,” the municipal council says.

This means that the decision to deploy the police wasn’t made by the police department on its own accord. Instead, it turns out to have been a coordinated action between the municipality, the police and TU/e. “The municipality and the police always share information with each other in case of a manifestation, and in this case also with TU/e. This way, all parties will know beforehand how to act within the frames of the law,” according to the municipality.

To de-escalate

Apart from submitting questions, Partij voor de Dieren (PvdD) also asked the municipal council for an evaluation. “How do you assess the proportionality of the police force against protesters of University Rebellion on March 15, 2022?” The council believes that the police actions occurred “in phases and was aimed to de-escalate.” “Society expects police officers to act, where and when necessary. Sometimes they need to control a person, even when that person physically resists. Police officers are allowed to use so-called control techniques for which they received training. They are required to use these techniques effectively and with proportionality. The public needs to be able to trust the police that it will act professionally when it exercises its right to use force. That is why police officers are always accountable to the deputy district attorney for the use of force. That also applied in this situation, and the conclusion is that the police acted proportionally and subsidiary.”

Campus is public-private domain

It will be clear to everyone that the police have the right to intervene in the public domain. The TU/e campus, however, is a grey area since it is a public-private domain. “What is the council’s view on the right to protest in the grey area between private and public terrain, as is the case with TU/e?” PvdD wanted to know.

The municipal council: “We speak of a manifestation when two persons or more gather in a public space to express a message. TU/e’s external campus areas are considered public spaces that fall under the Public Manifestations Act (WOM). In this specific case, the demonstration took place in a TU/e building. The first party to carry responsibility is the owner of the building. The mayor is authorized under article eight of the WOM to intervene and to hold accountable individuals who organize or take part in a public protest at a location other than a public space. When that seems to be the case, an assessment is made on whether that public protest does indeed take place at a location other than a public space. This assessment is always made after consultation with the owner of the building, in this case TU/e. Depending on the outcome, the ball is in the court of the mayor or the owner. We’ve agreed with TU/e on this procedure at an earlier stage, because they too – like the municipal council – give high priority to the right to protest. It is, however, up to the protesters to take responsibly too. Taking part in a demonstration doesn’t mean that you don’t have to abide by laws and regulations.”

Last Thursday, University Rebellion and several other protesters who are committed to the cause, gathered to express their right to demonstrate, in response to the police intervention in March. This demonstration took place in MetaForum, without any police intervention.

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