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Netherlands Newspaper Headline

Dutch Citizens Shocked by the Storming of the Capitol

It was 7 pm in the Netherlands when rioters opposed to the certification of the 2020 U.S. election results breached the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021. With few places to go due to a strict COVID-19 lockdown throughout the nation, shocked Dutch citizens watched as the violence unfolded in Washington. Mark Rutte, the Dutch Minister-President, tweeted, “Horrible images from Washington DC @realDonaldTrump, recognise @Joe Biden as the next president today.” Discussion of the insurrection dominated Dutch news programming for days after the incident, with political pundits expressing dismay at the social and political chaos unfolding in the U.S. Many people living in the Netherlands interpret the insurrection as a logical outgrowth of former President Donald Trump’s aggressive brand of leadership and long-term pressures on U.S. democratic institutions. 

While recognizing the event as an outgrowth of specific social, cultural, and economic pressures in the U.S., many Dutch citizens found the extremely violent nature of the riot noteworthy. One woman described feeling, “shock, surprise, and anger over the insurrection, given the intensity of it and, in particular, the explicit death threats to certain members of Congress.” Many perceived the threats levied against elected officials as particularly problematic. “The attempt to kill Pence was certainly very shocking,” stated one long-term resident of the Netherlands originally from the United Kingdom. “I bet Pence didn’t expect death threats to come from the right,” they added. 

Few in the Netherlands question the link between President Trump’s leadership and rhetoric and the events of January 6th. “Trump’s presidency has been marked by white supremacy and ultra-nationalist discourse in a manner consistent enough that the insurrection was not surprising,” said one student. The failure of the Republican Party to limit former President Trump’s behavior also received emphasis. “What surprised me was that it was only after the insurrection that some people, including politicians, seemed to start doubting Trump and thinking that he had gone too far. Too little too late. There were so many indications far earlier on of the danger he represented,” suggested one resident of South Holland.

The widespread participation of individuals who would normally be considered mainstream Republicans was also particularly troublesome to many observers in the Netherlands. “What particularly shocked me, though, was not so much the behavior by the extreme right-wing, but the number of people who seemed within the normal spectrum, like if I met them in a shop and had a quick chat, I would probably think they were normal, ok people, yet they still claimed to have spent two days traveling to Washington to protest about the election being stolen from them as if all the court judgments against simply hadn’t happened,” said one individual.

The weak police response also stunned many watchers of U.S. politics, with some coming to the conclusion that the police might have been involved. “I must admit when I first heard what was happening, it crossed my mind that the police might even be helping the insurrectionists. They seemed so ineffective at first — it wasn’t like the confirming of the election result on that day was unexpected,” said one Dutch citizen. 

Many were struck by the differing responses to the insurrection and last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests. “While I was shocked to witness the destructive behavior of the insurrectionists, the violent language, and the physical destruction to the property, I was more shocked to see the difference in the authorities’ response to Trump’s incitement of the insurrection, in particular when compared to the peaceful Black Lives Matter protest on June 2nd, 2020,” said a former International Studies student. 


Lorre L

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