Public gatherings banned in Dutch district hit by rioting over death of man in police custody

Dutch police on duty during a riot in the Schilderswijk district of The Hague, The Netherlands, in the early hours of July 2, 2015.
Dutch police on duty during a riot in the Schilderswijk district of The Hague, The Netherlands, in the early hours of July 2, 2015. PHOTO: EPA

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch police fired warning shots and arrested 34 people during a third-straight day of unrest on Thursday triggered by the death of a Caribbean man in police custody, and a temporary ban on public gatherings was imposed in a neighbourhood hit by rioting.

The death from apparent asphyxiation on Sunday of Mr Mitch Henriquez, 42, from the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba, has been likened to incidents in the United States that sparked protests over excessive police use of force.

Disturbances erupted anew overnight on Thursday and the police on horseback charged protesters who set fires, hurled bottles and rocks and smashed shop windows, according to a police statement.

Later on Thursday, the mayor of The Hague imposed a rare temporary ban on public assembly in the neighbourhood, where more than 60 protesters have been arrested since Monday, to try to stem the violence, the Dutch news agency ANP reported.

Under the measure, no more that three people were permitted to gather in one place while "dangerous objects" and scooters were prohibited, other local media said.

At one point during hours of rioting early on Thursday, the police fired warning shots to ward a mob of youths who had cornered them, before riot officers arrived in jeeps, enabling their colleagues on foot to flee to safety.

Police said calm was restored in the mainly immigrant neighbourhood, known for tense relations with the predominantly white police department, by 4am.

Preliminary findings from an autopsy indicated that Mr Henriquez died of asphyxiation after being held in a chokehold and pinned down by five white police officers. His death was almost certainly caused by rough police treatment, it said.

Mr Henriquez, who has three children and was visiting the Netherlands, was arrested at a concert on Saturday for allegedly shouting that he had a gun, and died in hospital on Sunday.

He did not have a weapon, investigators said. The police initially said that Mr Henriquez had become unwell while on his way to jail. But an amateur video emerged on Monday showing him being taken away in an arrest van, apparently already unconscious, after the heavy-handed arrest.

The five officers involved in Mr Henriquez's arrest have been suspended pending results of an investigation.

The Hague's police force has previously been criticised by Amnesty International and in a 2013 Dutch TV documentary for targeting foreigners and immigrants disproportionately and with greater use of force.

Police have denied having any policy of racial profiling.