On Monday, a group of young men fired a gel blaster at gay bar Prik on Spuistraat in Amsterdam, injuring one customer. That was the latest of many incidents at the bar, co-owner Gerson van Eck said to AD. Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema called the many incidents a “cultural problem” among various groups ranging from fraternity boys to conservative youths.
“Everyone has a responsibility to live up to the standard that we are a free and diverse city,” Halsema said. She is investigating whether she can do something against gel blasters – toy guns that shoot water bead pellets similar to paintballs. “I find it unbelievable that they can be sold as toys.”
According to Van Eck, Monday’s incident happened at around 10:15 p.m. A car with young men inside pulled up. “They shouted ‘kankerhomos’ from the car and then started shooting at our terrace.” In Dutch, the word “kankerhomos” is used as a harsh slur against gay people.
One bar guest, a man from Israel, was hit in the eye. It is not yet known if his vision will fully recover, Van Eck said. “It is a miracle that he can still see anything.”
The police told AD that the victim decided not to press charges. The incident was reported to Roze in Blauw, the division of the police department dedicated to tackling crimes against the LGBTQIA+ community.
Prik describes itself as “Amsterdam’s favorite gay hang-out.” Van Eck told the newspaper this “incessant problem” of insults and attacks on his visitors started when they opened the terrace during the pandemic. “We noticed that people often shouted at our guests. We were quite shocked about that. But many of our regulars said they got used to it.”
In consultation with the municipality, the bar placed planters along the terrace to create “something of a barrier” between the street and its customers.
Since the summer, police in the Netherlands have seen an increase in people being shot at with gel blasters. Authorities attributed it to a popular TikTok challenge encouraging people to shoot the guns at random individuals while recording their reactions. “The consequences of this can be significant. In addition to causing a burning and painful spot, vulnerable body parts such as eyes can also be hit. Using this weapon also poses other dangers,” police stated.
On top of that, police officers have also drawn their own service weapons and fired warning shots when responding to reports of people carrying firearms which turned out to be realistic-looking gel blasters. “Officers cannot immediately determine in advance that these are toy weapons and may therefore draw their service weapon. An unexpected move or ill-intentioned joke by the young people in question can be fatal,” one officer said in a statement.
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