by Massimiliano Sfregola

 

Rotterdam police have arrested this afternoon, Saturday the 11th of November , 200 anti-Zwarte Piet demonstrator arrived from Amsterdam to protest against the “Blackface” of the Dutch popular culture.

According to the tradition, the ‘‘intocht “marks the arrival of Sinterklaas from Spain, accompanied by his helper ” Zwarte Piet “; destination was Maassluis, a small town  on the outskirt of Rotterdam where yesterday in the afternoon, the celebration was held. Those put in place were tight security measures; of those you see arranged for big events, with a massive deployment of security forces: searches, inspections and access controlled gates, were marking the entire area of the small centre. 

Mayor’s fear was, in fact, that protest demonstrations might end up interfering with the celebration; the organising committee, in contrast to Amsterdam, has given green light to the presence of “Black Piets” sparking the ire of the galaxy of anti-racist groups. But this year, the announcement of a counter-demonstration of “Kick Out Zwarte Piet” was compounded by the news that NVU, Nederland Volks Unie, a far-right party would have held a “pro Zwarte Piet” rally.

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Intocht van Sinterklaas in Maassluis. On the right, NVU activists (photo: 31mag.nl)

Despite the ban on demonstrations imposed by the Mayor of Maassluis, and a garrison granted to a small crowd of far right NVU activists, the anti-racist groups have left Amsterdam in the morning heading off to Sinterklaas welcome party, to challenge the prohibition. But the bus arranged by “Kick Out Zwarte Piet” never arrived to destination: “We were stopped on our way to the town,” Simion Blom, Groenlinks councillor of Amsterdam, told 31mag “then we tried to change destination and head to Rotterdam. ” Together with Maassluis, also Rotterdam celebrated the arrival of Sinterklaas, even there joined by Zwarte Piet.

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Rotterdam, anti-Zwarte Piet demonstrators under arrest (photo: 31mag.nl)

But the activists found, once again, anti-riot police waiting for them: Blom has informed us on the early afternoon, shortly after the start of the parade in Rotterdam, that demonstrators -including him- travelling on the three bus were forced to turn back from Maassluis, where they were arrested by the police and taken into custody. The officers forced the activists to stand for hours in the cold, while waiting for buses to move them to the police station.  Far-right group NVU was the only one allowed to demonstrate (in support of Zwarte Piet) in Maassluis. Late in the evening, anti-Zwarte Piet activists in Rotterdam were eventually released.

On the streets of Rotterdam, the “intocht” parade took place without incidents but atmosphere was tense and presence of police in uniform and plain clothes was heavy: straight at the end a young man, with ethnic minority background, displaying  in the crowd  a provocative sign, was quickly surrounded by officers who then carried a violent arrest.

A successful day for public order then, gained sacrificing the right to demonstrate. By mid-afternoon, the lawyer Hugo van Aardenne, defending those protestors under arrest, told 31mag: “They will probably be released in the evening. Purpose of the detention was, clearly, to prevent them from joining the event.”