A hot winter in the Netherlands: Politics can be great fun but it can be tough as well, as we learnt this December. For the first time ever (as far as I know), the Dutch green youth organisation DWARS was on the front page of a national Dutch newspaper, but we sure weren’t happy with it. Rutger, our general co-ordinator, was quoted as saying that burning cars can be a good action if this is done to protest against breeding animals for their furs. He had told the journalist with much emphasis that this was his personal point of view, and certainly not the opinion of DWARS as an organisation, but such subtleties were obviously lost to the media and a great storm of indignation broke loose. Both the chairman of the Dutch Green party and the spokesperson of the Green group in the Dutch Parliament rejected his standpoint vehemently. The next day we had to send out a press release in which we emphasised that Rutger had not spoken on behalf of DWARS and that DWARS rejects all violence, including burning cars.
To keep DWARS from further harm, Rutger decided to resign immediately. We were all very shocked by that, though most agreed that it was better that way. In the past he has meant a lot for DWARS and without him we would not have been half the organisation we are now. Though he obviously made a big mistake when he told those things to a journalist, he really deserved a better farewell.
We can comfort ourselves with the fact that both he and DWARS have learnt a lot about what to do (and what not) in the media and with the fact that things really could have been worse. The media storm has come to a rest. The dust has settled. Our relationship with the Dutch Green party doesn’t seem to have suffered too much. Informally a lot of people have expressed much sympathy and understanding. We can only hope that the next time we make the papers big time, it will be in a more positive way.