Rev. Anthony Grimes, a member of the National Council of IFOR's branch in the United States witnessed a police altercation while in Amsterdam for a project sponsored by Kerk en Vrede and the IFOR Secretariat. IFOR International Coordinator, Lucas Johnson, also witnessed the incident. Rev. Grimes video received over 168,000 views and stirred controversy in the Netherlands. IFOR and Kerk en Vrede release the following statement in response to the controversy:
As the world’s oldest multi-faith organization working for peace, the International Fellowship of Reconciliation has engaged in efforts to challenge racism and other discriminatory practices around the world for over 100 years. The U.S. branch of IFOR, who counted among its members the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., has played a prominent role in the recent protests in the United States. Several of our branches in Europe have noticed the escalating tensions at intersections of ethnicity and faith within the European context. The Dutch branch of IFOR, Kerk en Vrede has launched a project to facilitate reconciliation within Dutch society by challenging structural racism and other forms of violence that perpetuate social exclusion and alienation.
Rev. Anthony Grimes is an activist within the U.S. “Black Lives Matters” movement that has gained worldwide attention as African Americans and others challenge racist and discriminatory police practices in that country. Anthony, a leader within the U.S. branch of the IFOR was invited by Kerk en Vrede, the Dutch branch of IFOR, to be a guest speaker, and share his story with communities here while learning about what is similar and different in the Dutch context.
On July 18, 2015, the day he arrived in the Netherlands, Rev. Grimes and Rev. Lucas Johnson, IFOR International Coordinator, were walking to Vondelpark when they noticed a police action on Jan Pieter Heijestraat. It was not their intention to get involved in the police activity. Rev. Grimes began filming the interaction and both Grimes and Johnson responded with alarm to what appeared to be one officers attempt to break a suspect’s arm while another officer used what appeared to be a chokehold to subdue the suspect. There was the later appearance of an arm in the strangling position around the same suspect’s neck. Neither Grimes nor Johnson know what the suspects were accused of but both were aware of the danger of chokeholds made famous by the killing of Eric Garner in New York last year.
There are many differences between the Netherlands and the United States. We believe that both reasonable and objectionable policing was on display that afternoon. The fact that we view some of the police behavior as appropriate does not diminish the real harassment and violence that communities here experience from police. Similarly, calling attention to the objectionable practices of these officers is not meant to suggest that this incident is representative of all policing in Amsterdam or the Netherlands. The video was posted on social media as an invitation primarily for the sake of encouraging conversations about the role and expectations of police in our respective communities. As people of conscience, we want to be in solidarity with everyone building more inclusive and humane societies.
We express concern for the wellbeing of the young men who were apprehended. We feel that no matter the crime, it is not appropriate for police officers to unnecessarily risk taking the life of or gravely injuring a suspect. If representatives from the police wish to be in conversation about the video, we welcome the chance to be in dialogue. They may contact Dr. Janneke Stegeman at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Rev. Lucas Johnson, IFOR International Coordinator
Rev. Anthony Grimes, Denver Freedom Riders, and member National Council Fellowship of Reconciliation (USA)
Dr. Janneke Stegeman, Program Coordinator, Kerk en Vrede