Race riots in Rotterdam were also “an uprising against failing policy of the municipality”

Fifty years ago, on 10 August, big riots took place in the Afrikaanderwijk in Rotterdam between locals and Turkish migrant workers. At the time, the media put the locals away as racists, and focused on ethnic tension. Marc Schuilenburg, Professor of Digital Surveillance at Erasmus School of Law, concludes after reading police reports, council reports and news articles that the riots also had another cause: the many years of social issues. In the second part of a series of the NRC, Schuilenburg explains his vision of the events of 1972. In addition, a debate night will be held in the Arminius Church in September.

On 10 August 1972, a conflict between a Turkish landlord and a Dutch tenant led to huge riots in the Afrikaanderwijk in Rotterdam. The friction caused an altercation between neighbours, during which Dutch residents and migrant workers caused destruction and uproar. This conflict turned into multi-day riots in the neighbourhood due to ethnic tensions fed by decreasing social cohesion and impoverishment of the community. The riots got a lot of media attention and attracted sensationalist troublemakers from the entire region. The social conflict quickly turned into confrontations between police and eventually even caused man-to-man fights.

Failing policy

Although the extent of the riots was partially the result of sensationalism, Schuilenburg distinguishes multiple causes, among which are social tensions. “Those tensions were in the air for years. There were already reports on poor maintenance and a lack of social amenities. The riots were in some way also an uprising against failing policy by the municipality”, according to the Professor of Digital Surveillance. 

Remarkable are the political developments in the municipality of Rotterdam. “The Dutch media put the residents away as racists and the focus was on ethnic tension, but the municipality saw the riots as a social conflict”, emphasizes Schuilenburg. After the riots, the municipal council decided to spread out people of non-Western heritage across town and implement a maximum of five per cent of foreigners compared to Dutch citizens in all neighbourhoods of Rotterdam.

After the National Council of State quashed this decision due to violating the UN discrimination treaty in 1974, the Rotterdamwet was implemented in 2005. The Rotterdamwet is officially not focused on foreigners – it is focused on people with a low income – “but the target group of this law is the same as in the past: Turks and Moroccans”, says Schuilenburg.

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In September, a debate night will be held about the Afrikaander riots of 1972 in the Arminius church in Rotterdam, with the cooperation of Marc Schuilenburg. Click here for more information and tickets.

Read the entire article of the NRC here (in Dutch).

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