Rudolf Valhoff Arrested After Protest Participation
By ISABEL BONNET | April 16, 2019
Illustration by Sofia Romansky
He was allegedly mocked by several police officers and sexually harassed.
Rudolf Valkhoff, 65, worked as a History and Philosophy teacher at the University of Amsterdam for 30 years. In 2015, he participated in the Bungehuis and Maagdenhuis occupation during the student protest against the lack of democracy and spending cuts at the university. He was fired a year later, based on “substantive grounds,” according to the university.
The end of his working contract at UvA marked the beginning of his involvement in the rallies to reach, as he describes it, academic freedom. Valkhoff is an active participant of Humanities Rally UvA. Last Friday, he joined “Outraved,” the dance demonstration march around the city alongside the DJs and about 100 students, which ended with his arrest.
Valkhoff took the stage near Roeterseiland Campus, one of the multiple locations where the group stopped to protest the budget cuts on education. He spoke out against deadlines, stress inflicted on students and how he believes the University of Amsterdam is jeopardising academic freedom. “University is not a place […] where managers are frightened to lose their power,” Valhoff said. “University is where people are able to be free. When you feel free and you express your freedom in an intellectual way, that is a university.”
“Aggression, hate and violence are contra-productive and it drags people apart,” the Cultural Sciences lecturer said, “We need to show people that we are free. […] we [the protesters] don’t take life seriously because, why should we?”
About one hour and a half after the demonstration had ended, Rudolf Valkhoff was walking in the streets near Waterlooplein alongside four other protesters before he was stopped by two policemen.
Valkhoff was accused to have used the acronym A.C.A.B. during his speech, which stands for “All Cops Are Bastards.” “I didn’t know,” he said. “I thought it meant ‘All Cats Are Beautiful’.” He was taken to the police station, where the situation escalated quickly.
“First, I was told that I had to take out my ear prosthesis. I was not allowed to take it out for 6 weeks […] I was under medical supervision.” After Valkhoff refused to do what he was told, he was allegedly pushed against the wall by a policeman, who then took out the earring.
Video of the arrest of Rudolf Valkhoff on Friday, April 12, 2019. Gaia / Humanities Rally UvA
A Gender Neutrality Controversy
After the 2015 protests and his suspension at UvA, Valkhoff was disappointed by the little support he received from other educators at the university. “I don’t understand why,” he said. “At the beginning we had a lot of support. I am afraid that most teachers are frightened.”
This led him to into a long depression, from which he was recently able to recover, by using his humour and allowing himself to explore his feminine side. “I have discovered that I feel more comfortable expressing my femininity by wearing clothes that are considered feminine. […] I do not repress my femininity.”
On the day of the protest, Valkhoff wore semi-transparent black panties and a skirt. “The police told me I had to take out either the panties or the skirt because I cannot wear two pair of clothes in the cell.”
According to the Amsterdam Police department, people are allowed to wear one pair of clothing in the cell, underwear excluded.
“I was arrested before and wore both pairs of clothing,” he said. “They did not accept what I thought was a logical objection.”
Previous to this incident, Valkhoff had been arrested twice. The first time was during the Bungehuis occupation in 2015. The second one, during the P.C. Hoofthuis occupation in September 2018.
“For women’s clothing, it is different,” the policeman allegedly said to Valkhoff. “First of all, I don’t know what women’s clothing is. I don’t know what it means. And I don’t know how it is different.”
Two officers allegedly tore his skirt while a group of policemen on the back were “giggling […] and said that apparently I liked it. Which I didn’t.” Valkhoff admits he felt exposed. “Once you see […] people harass someone else, the borders become very thin. They thought they could [harass me] because they saw me as a clown in a dress, not as a person wearing a dress which makes it even more evil.”
“Please don’t do this,” he recalls saying to the policemen. “This is a very big mistake you are making.” He was sent to his cell skirt-less, wearing only a pair of black panties.
“I refused to come out for the questioning until I received back my skirt, […] I was semi-naked” Valkhoff recalls. “Finally, they allowed me to go to the questioning with my skirt but I had to take it out once I came back.” After a long discussion, Valkhoff was allowed to leave the police station at around 11pm on Friday.
Dutch lawmaking does not include specifics regarding the amount of clothing a person can wear in a holding cell, regardless of their biological sex. Items of clothing can only be taken away if they can cause harm to the person being held or others.
Persevering in His Quest
Today, Valkhoff believes he was unfairly fired by the university and the Dutch jurisdiction, which refused to appeal to the grounds of section 1.6 of the Higher Education and Research Act, or WHW, which states that there must be academic freedom in scientific knowledge. Today, he is in the process of taking his case to the European Court of Justice.
In September, 2019, Valkhoff will return to the University of Amsterdam as a student in Arabic. “I am going to study at the university that expelled me.”
“I will not be intimidated and I will continue to do my thing,” he said. “I am enjoying life to the fullest and I am free.”
On Friday, April 12, about 100 students and residents danced from 2 pm to 5 pm in protest of the budget cuts on education. The ‘Outraved’ dance demonstration started at Binnengasthuisterrein by the...
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Isabel Bonnet is a 21-year-old second-year student in communication science at UvA. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Amsterdammer. Before its creation, she worked as a photo editor at the Independent Florida Alligator and did an internship at Le Monde.