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Screamer who caused Amsterdam panic stampede apologizes

DutchAmsterdam.nl — The man whose scream caused a panicked stampede of a crowd gathered at Amsterdam’s Dam Square for the national Remembrance Day commemorations last Tuesday has apologized, his lawyer says.

The 39-year-old man, a homeless person identified only as Adam, did not intent to create a panic, attorney Marielle van Essen says.

Yes, this is an old article, but we keep it around to provide context to an event that still gets mentioned in the Dutch press from time to time.

“By crying out at the end of the two minutes of silence my client acted impulsively due to frustrations in his personal life as well as have imbibed an excessive amount of alcohol that day,” van Essen explains. “He could not have foreseen the consequences of his scream.”

Shot-like sound

The crowd of 20.000 people was observing a two minutes period of silence as part of the national Remembrance Day commemorations at Dam Square, home of the National Monument for those who died during the Second World War.

As the man’s top-of-the-lungs scream pierced the silence people around him starting moving away from him. In the process a metal crowd control fence fell over with a loud noise that many people later said sounded like a shot. Aerial footage of the live broadcast from the scene shows that this sound created panic throughout the crowd, resulting in a stampede.

Nearly 4 million people witnessed the incident on live television.

Scrapes, bruises and broken bones

64 people were injured, with injuries ranging from scrapes and bruises to bone fractures and broken legs.

Police said that the man, who was arrested on the spot, is being held in extended custody because in addition to disturbance of public order he is also suspected of causing grievous bodily harm by negligence.

Van Essen is angry with police superintendent Bernard Welten for telling the press that her client had in the past been arrested for theft, assault, drug trafficking and drug possession.

“What is the relevance of reporting this,” she asks. “My client was already arrested and police could have seen he made confused impression. Now when my client is released everyone knows about this.”

Likes to shock

Employees of cafes and restaurants along the nearby Spui street say Adam likes to shock people. “He enjoys getting a rise out of people,” newspaper De Telegraaf writes.

The paper reports the man has been a permanent resident at Spui street for the past year-and-a-half.

Last Tuesday several witnesses described him as an ‘Orthodox Jew,’ but those who know him say he merely wears ‘Jewish-looking clothes’ — a black coat, a white shirt and a hat — in order not to be fashionable. His outfit has earned Adam a nickname: ‘The Rabbi.’

Friday an investigating judge will determine whether the man should remain in custody.
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This post was last updated: Jan. 23, 2014