The number of extremist incidents has increased in the Northern Netherlands. This has emerged from research by the University of Groningen. This mainly concerns anti-government extremism.

    According to the researchers, extremism is often portrayed as jihadism, but this plays a limited role in the North. “Traditional forms of right-wing and left-wing extremism have also surfaced to a limited extent,” the researchers write. Between January 2014 and June 2020, 17 anti-government extremist incidents were registered in Drenthe. In Groningen there were 41, Friesland had 13 incidents.

    ‘Cross-pollination with the extreme right’

    There is, however, ‘regular cross-fertilization with the extreme right’ in anti-government extremism. The investigation shows that the incidents in the Northern Netherlands are mainly related to threats and vandalism. In Groningen, an attack was also committed on journalist Willem Groeneveld of city blog Sikkom.

    “The boundaries between (legitimate) activism and extremism are fluid. Extremist expressions are often related to concrete problems, for example around the corona, nitrogen and asylum debate, but at the same time must be seen as expressions of a more widely shared social discontent in the region.” as stated in the report. This form of extremism often does not involve formal organisations.

    Conspiracies, corona and nitrogen

    The Northern Netherlands appears to be a breeding ground for conspiracy theorists. “Based on a significant sample in the three northern provinces, Enigma Research concluded in 2020 that one in five northerners would believe in the existence of an ‘invisible elite’.”

    Anti-government extremism also targeted corona policy. “While this backlash was more widespread and people had diverse motivations, conspiracy theories undeniably cross-fertilized and the latter have contributed to hardening protests in both offline and online contexts.” For example, employees of the GGD were intimidated. A fire was also set at a corona test location in Emmen.

    Protests against the nitrogen policy are also hardening. According to the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security, action group Farmers Defense Force fulfills a “polarizing role”. This hardening also manifested itself in actions. The researchers point to blockages at waste processor Attero in Wijster and at Groningen Airport Eelde.

    Wind farms

    There was also opposition to the arrival of wind farms. This happened, for example, in the Veenkoloniën. “Under the leadership of organizations such as Platform Storm, Storm Meeden, Tegenwind N33 and Windalarm, various protest actions were organized, which in a number of cases took on illegal forms.” For example, entrepreneurs, farmers and politicians were threatened. Furthermore, asbestos was dumped and a builder of a wind farm in Coevorden was threatened. There was also an attempt to set fire to his house.

    Extreme right relatively small

    The extreme right is gaining a foothold “as a result of highly polarized debates around refugees, ‘Islamization’ and Zwarte Piet”. Yet the extreme right in the Northern Netherlands is relatively small and fragmented, according to the report. “Today, the far right takes many forms, including political parties and ultra-nationalist organizations, but also diffuse online groups, study movements, reading groups, protest movements, sports teams and individuals.”

    Christmas market in Wijster

    The Northern Netherlands has four different movements: classic neo-Nazi groups, alt-right movements, identitarian formations and so-called ‘accelerationists’. As an example, researchers use the Kameraschap Noord-Nederland (KNNL), a regional offshoot of the international neo-Nazi group Blood & Honour. The investigation states that (former) supporters of KNNL are also involved in making Nazi rock and the Batavica clothing brand, which is known in extreme right-wing circles.

    The founder of Batavica was also present with a stall during an illegal Christmas market organized by the Forum for Democracy in Wijster. The study group Erkenbrand is also active in Drenthe and Groningen. According to the researchers, Erkenbrand is an extremist action group with mainly highly educated people with nationalistic and radical right-wing ideas.

    Left-wing extremism especially in Groningen and Friesland

    The Northern Netherlands also has left-wing extremism, but that would vary in intensity. The extreme left also has an “unpredictable, reactive character”. The report shows that left-wing extremists are mainly active in Groningen and Friesland.

    You can read the whole report here read.