No simple explanation for curfew riots according to criminologists of Erasmus School of Law

After the curfew riots, Dutch news outlets wondered what drives the rioters. Jeroen van den Broek and Abdessamad Bouabid, criminologists at Erasmus School of Law, state in an interview with the online magazine ‘Vers Beton’ that there are several reasons why an individual commits to riots.

Van den Broek researches online street culture and youth crime. According to him, young people do not feel heard in this crisis and, like many others in the Netherlands, they are tired of the corona measures. "There is a small group of young people that have taken advantage of the momentum of unrest, created by the already existing malcontent."

Bouabid conducts ethnographic research into young people in Rotterdam and, like Van den Broek, has closely followed the situation concerning the riots. He emphasises: "The reasons why people engage in this type of behaviour varies per individual. That makes criminology and its interpretation so complicated." Socio-economic factors, coupled with conspiracy theories, provide the right conditions for inciting riots. However, according to Bouabid, these are not the direct reason for the recent events. In particular, boredom and not being able to blow off steam, together with the anonymity created by group violence, lead to these riots.

Van den Broek speaks of a "moral holiday", a term currently widely used in criminology. "The anarchy of the moment is tempting: they lose all sense of their morality. (…) That is nothing new. Not even demolition in your hometown. We saw this earlier with the riots and violent behaviour of Feyenoord hooligans in the city centre of Rotterdam in 2017."

Bouabid has disproved the statement that it is "the foreigners" who provoked the riots in the south of Rotterdam. This claim is outdated in criminology and does not answer the question of why an individual commits violence. Van den Broek also spoke about the important role that the anonymous messaging service Telegram played during the corona riots and the extent to which the police were able to monitor this service. The anonymity of the public groups and the ability to share live images on Telegram makes the app very popular. However, for the police, these groups were also easy to find.

More information

You can read the entire article by Vers Beton, in Dutch, here