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He needed help, not a chokehold


ACTION • Remember Mateusz


This vigil shed light on police violence against people experiencing mental health crises.

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On June 9, 2023, 32-year-old Dutch-Polish Mateusz was killed by disproportionate police violence. He was a psychiatric patient who keyed a car. Police came after him in as many as ten cars – he was on a bicycle. They tasered him, only to beat, kick and strangle him as he lay on the ground. Video footage showed the police officers getting up after a long time, while Mateusz remained motionless on the ground.


Mateusz was not the first to die from police brutality in the Netherlands. Remon Kalloe, Mitch Henriquez, Sammy Baker and many others preceded him. Yazan al Madani, for example, shot eight times at the age of 27 while in psychosis. Or Mitchel Winters, also in a confused state, and shot seven times at the age of 21 by three police officers. Akef Ibrahimi mentions all of them in his speech at Mateusz’s memorial service and comes to a conclusion: men from migrant backgrounds who exhibit confusing behavior are overrepresented in murder statistics from police brutality.


It was an emotional and powerful memorial on Rotterdam’s Coolsingel, with support from Het Actiefonds. In speeches by the father, a friend, the family’s lawyer, and the organizer Ibrahimi. It concluded with the laying of flowers and two minutes of silence.

The speeches called for justice and prosecution of the executioners who had killed Mateusz. On GoFundMe, people could donate money to the family to cover legal costs.Sadness, grief and dismay prevailed. As friend Claudia put it:

“Why did the police hit Mateusz so hard, why was a taser deployed on someone who had no weapons and above all was in a mentally unstable state, why couldn’t the police recognize a person with mental problems, after all they should have been trained for that?”


The officers involved in Mateusz’s death were already able to return to work as soon as last October, some even in the same position. Fortunately, it was announced last month that their eight officers will be prosecuted for Mateusz’s death. It is already something, although we will await the verdict to know if justice prevailed.

After all, incidents like these do not play out in a vacuum. In recent years, police have been given more and more space and means to use force to maintain order, such as the 2022 law authorizing the use of tasers. This expanding monopoly on violence goes hand in hand with legal irresponsibility when police action leads to deadly consequences.

The prosecution of Mateusz’s perpetrators is an exception: according to research by Control Alt Delete, the prosecution proceeds to prosecute in only one percent of reports. Between 2016 and 2019, only four officers were fined for excessive police brutality, and none were prosecuted for discrimination. For context, in 2019 alone, police reported 24 thousand cases of use of force, a number that has steadily risen to nearly 35 thousand in the following years.

Police brutality is a structural issue with obvious racial aspects. Het Actiefonds wants not only justice for the loved ones of Mateusz, but also a world in which police violence is no longer tolerated.