Haren’s mayor Rob Bats appalled by Facebook-riots

POSTED: 09/24/12 11:35 AM

GREAT BAY/ HAREN – Rob Bats, the former chef of the governor’s cabinet in St. Maarten, was appointed per May 1 to mayor of Haren – a sleepy town with less than 20,000 inhabitants in the province of Groningen. On Friday the 49-year old mayor had a situation on his hands: a Facebook-triggered so-called X-party that brought hundreds of party-goers and also lots of hooligans to the place.

The result: 36 arrests, millions of dollars in damages to stores, cars and street furniture” like lamp posts and public mail boxes. One 84-year-old man was seriously ill-treated in his own home by a hooligan and had to be taken to hospital with a broken jaw.

The X-party came to life after Merthe, a 16-year-old local girl had posted an invitation for a sweet sixteen party on Facebook. The invitation was meant to celebrate her 16th birthday. But the girl forgot to indicate that the party was private. Within hours, 30,000 Facebookers indicated their intention to attend.

The police said on Saturday that between 3,000 and 5,000 partygoers and hooligans had come to Haren, but according to reporters for the national press agency ANP the number was much higher.

“Unimaginable and terrible,” were the terms Bats used to describe the events. “Scum has gone on a rampage in our municipality.”

Bats said that the riots have had an enormous impact on Haren. He qualified the girl’s invitation on Facebook “innocent” thereby deflating suggestions that the social network site is to blame for the riots.

“That this would happen to us I had not expected in a worst case scenario. It is terrible that this got  so far out of control. This scum was very violent and well prepared. They willingly sought the confrontation.”

Bats said that he had seriously considered the organization of an alternative party, but that he had dropped the plan in the end, fearing that this would have attracted even more hooligans to his village.

The mayor announced a large-scale investigation into the events whereby “the influence of the social media and the traditional media on these events” has to be examined.

The public prosecutor’s office said that police made 36 arrests, mainly for committing public violence. The suspects come from all over the country and most of them are minors.

The police was present in Haren on Friday night with 500 personnel, but it was unable to control the mob.

Insurance companies have encouraged citizens who suffered damages from the riots to report this; they will be compensated, the insurers said, adding that they intend to recoup the damages from the rioters.

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