“Dutch Prime Minister should condemn Sinterklaas arrival violence”
Last weekend, Sinterklaas arrived all over the Netherlands. In many Dutch cities, the jolly figure was welcomed and the event went off without a hitch. However, this was not the case in every city, in Eindhoven and Rotterdam, the police had to intervene when pro-Black Piet demonstrators attacked anti-Black Piet protestors.
The right to protest in the Netherlands
During the arrival of Sinterklaas in Eindhoven, anti-Black Piet protestors from the group Kick Out Zwarte Piet (KOZP) were pelted by pro-Black Piet demonstrators with eggs and cans of beer whilst racist slurs were shouted at them. Similarly, in Rotterdam, KOZP protestors at the Erasmusbrug were also met with eggs, fireworks and smoke bombs being thrown at them.
In other parts of the country, such as Nijmegen and Zwolle, KOZP was denied the right to protest by the mayors out of fear that such a demonstration would lead to disorder. Planned protests by the group in The Hague and Den Helder were also cancelled last minute due to threats of violence. In the Netherlands, everyone and every group has the right to convene in public to meet or protest, for example.
Amnesty International speaks out
According to Amnesty International spokesperson Emile Affolter, “Rutte needs to speak out strongly against the violence. He is staying silent at the moment. But by saying nothing, you also say something”. After the protests in Eindhoven, the mayor, John Jorritsma, responded by saying that a line had been crossed and spoke of “extremely intimidating behaviour by a very large group of aggressive, unannounced hooligans”.
Affolter expresses that something is wrong in the eyes of Amnesty International if a group cannot protest due to threats of violence. “Rutte often says that he finds freedom of expression important. So he should now declare this right applicable to everyone, 365 days of the year”, Affolter maintains.