Black Lives Matter: Thousands of protesters gather on Dam Square in Amsterdam
Anti-racism protests took place on Dam Square in Amsterdam yesterday, in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police on May 25 in the US.
Protesters in Dam Square numbered 10 times more than planned
The demonstration was planned for 5pm on June 1 with 250-500 estimated attendees but crowds 10 times the size of what was expected turned up. The demonstration was a peaceful one, in which hordes of people gathered to show solidarity with the protesters in the US, the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as ongoing systemic racism in the Netherlands and the EU.
Police have yet to give estimates on how many people attended, but it was thought to have been around 5.000. Protesters came bearing signs and placards with “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe” written on them. The latter are some of the last words of George Floyd as police officer Derek Chauvin pinned Floyd’s neck down for almost nine minutes with his knee, as seen in the horrifying footage of Floyd’s arrest.
The protest was organised by Black Heritage Tours founder Jennifer Tosch and New Urban Collective head Mitchell Esajas. One of the issues asserted at the event was the Black Piet character from the Dutch Sinterklaas tradition with its use of blackface, which has come under fire over the past decade. It’s part of an overarching issue of an alleged system of racial injustice that has pervaded Dutch society, with its origins in colonial times.
Organisers also referred to the death of Mitch Hendriquez who died after a violent arrest in The Hague in 2015, as well as the unjustified arrest of Jerry Afriyie in Gouda after an Anti-Black Piet protest in 2014.
Amsterdam mayor criticised
The mayor of Amsterdam, Femke Halsema, was criticised for not doing anything to stop such large crowds gathering amid the coronavirus pandemic. The event is thought to be a potential super-spreader, which the Outbreak Management Team’s virologists and epidemiologists find concerning.
Minister of Justice and Security Ferdinand Grapperhuis strongly opposed the protest and said to NOS news: "In this time, when we as a society are doing everything we can to keep the coronavirus under control, this really went beyond the limits,” and “these images are painful to see for all people who have adhered to the corona measures in recent weeks and who have worked hard in this crisis."
"The expectation was that there would be about 250 to 300 people. But it turned out to be a lot more. It overwhelmed me. If I could have foreseen this many people in a bunch, we would have led them away, normally," said the mayor.
The protest was peaceful throughout. Police intervention could potentially have led to violence and riots and therefore mayor Femke Halsema stands by her decision not to intervene. "There were a lot of people with heavy emotions. I could have intervened with heavy police intervention, which in turn could have caused a lot of unrest and perhaps riots."
Anti-racism protest planned in The Hague
Another anti-racism protest is planned: it will take place in the Koekamp in The Hague on Tuesday, June 2 at 6pm. Like the protest that took place on June 1 in Amsterdam, this second protest also aims to stand in solidarity with demonstrators in the US in condemning racism and to show a stance against police brutality such as that which led to the deaths by police of George Floyd and countless other people of colour before him.
Protests have taken place all across the US, as well as in many European cities like Berlin, Copenhagen, London, Dublin and many more.