Utrecht riots incited by vloggers, mayor says

Riots in Utrecht over the past weeks were fueled by vloggers on social media and three of them being arrested took the sting out of the unrest, Utrecht mayor Peter den Oudsten said in a city council meeting, RTV Utrecht reports. The three arrested suspects are from Hilversum and IJsselstein.

In a meeting with Justice Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus and the mayors of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague, Den Ousten asked Grapperhaus to look into how websites and posts on social media can be taken down more quickly if they call for riots, the mayor told the city council.

According to him, the police were hardly able to follow the posts on social media, because much of the conversation took place within closed groups. He therefore also told Grapperhaus to make sure the government can gain easier access to such closed groups, he said.

A total of 53 people were arrested over several nights of rioting in the Utrecht neighborhoods of Kanaleneiland, Ondiep, and Overvecht, among others. They detainees are suspected of throwing stones at the police, setting of fireworks, and committing vandalism and arson. More arrests may be made as more suspects are identified, the police said.

During the city council meeting, it also became clear that there were too few riot police officers in the city during the first night of rioting. Alderman Lot van Hooijdonk said that it was a conscious choice to intervene later, to try and have the unrest settle itself. When it became clear that this was not going to happen, the riot police were called in. They took about an hour to arrive, but could not respond in full numbers because many were on holiday and there was also unrest in other places in the country.