The 14 year old Lara Omer who organised the Black Lives Matter demonstration in the small town Dronten speaks. Her name sounds Turkish. The colored young Dutch woman who speaks from 1:35 on says: "I have experienced racism a lot. I was beaten off my bike, and I was sworn at and people don't want to sit next to me and I want that to be changed. Because it is true that we are colored people, but we are not bad people. We are not violent, we just want everyone to be equal. And we want to show that equality! We have the right to exist, despite the fact that we look different. We are all equal, and from the outside we look different, but maybe we are the same from the inside. I experience racism daily. People look with disgust at me. You hear bad words in the distance. And it becomes physical. I was beaten off my bike by someone who had the opinion that I don't belong here. I had enough of it!"
Black Lives matter demonstration in Utrecht, a city in the centre of the Netherlands
Black Lives Matter is a movement in the Netherlands that consists of alliances that vary from city to city between organizations and individuals. The network that anti-black beetle activists have built up in recent years is also important.
Petra Vissers, Trouw newspaper, 13 June 2020, 10:51 (translated with Google translate by Pieter Pluijgers on Monday, 29 June 2020)
Suddenly the Dam in Amsterdam was full. The June 1 demonstration against racism, also in solidarity with demonstrations in the United States, mobilized a huge crowd. That was no accident, it turned out in recent days. Everywhere in the Netherlands, from Middelburg in the far South West to Groningen in the far North east, large and smaller demonstrations took place, all under the name Black Lives Matter NL. Where does this movement come from? And what does she want to achieve?
Black Lives Matter NL is not an organization in the traditional sense of the word. In different cities, different organizations and individuals work together to launch protests.
The protest on the Dam square in Amterdam, for example, was organized by Kick Out Zwarte Piet - which is again a collaboration between Zwarte Piet is Racisme and Stop Blackface - and Black Queer & Trans Resistance NL. The latter group stands up for the rights of black Dutch people, trans people and non-hetero's.
In Southern North Brabant city Den Bosch, however, the organization was in the hands of 'Den Bosch kan het' ('Den Bosch Can Do It'), which fights against black pete during the Sinterklaasintocht (the entry of the figure of Saint Niclaus with his Black Face, Black Pete servants), in the Zeeland city of Middelburg politician Angelique Duijndam (Coucillor in the Muncipality of Vlissingen in the city council there with her 'List Duijndam') organized the demonstration and in Groningenthe Groningen Feminist Network, Women's March Groningen and Black Ladies of Groningen initiated the sit-in on the Grote Markt (the Big Square).
The idea for a sit-in in Groningen originated in the app group of student Stacey Lamptey and two friends, she says. “Initially out of solidarity with victims of racist violence in the US. But it has become much bigger than that,” says Lamptey. "It is also about recognizing the existence of racism in the Netherlands."
At the same time that Lamptey and her friends discussed the idea of a sit-in, the women behind the Women's March Groningen contacted her. Lamptey is the founder of Black Ladies of Groningen and therefore she knows many women from other organizations. “There is a large network of women in Groningen who empower and support other women. We have had no contact with organizations in other cities about the sit-in. ”
Since the organization was owned by three feminist organizations, the demonstration in Groningen was inevitably also about sexism. "The two are part of the same conversation," says Lamptey. “Especially as black women, we have to deal with both problems. They influence each other.” That realization is important. Although the focus of Black Lives Matter is on racism, those who demonstrate do so against all kinds of exclusion. For protesters, violence against black Dutch is inseparable from violence against women or gays.
Black Lives matter demonstration in Utrecht, a city in the centre of the Netherlands
Black Lives Matter is a global movement that started on social media in the United States in 2013, after the 17-year-old black Trayvon Martin was shot dead by a white neighborhood guard. After the murder of George Floyd, the demonstrations flared up again and were replicated far beyond the borders of America. However, the global discontent against racism and violence is taking on a character of its own in every country and in every city. Typical Dutch in this is the resistance against the figure Zwarte Piet.
Much has happened since Jerry Afriyie and Quinsy Gario made the news in 2012 with their project "Zwarte Piet is racisme" and the subsequent arrests during entry. While the two men were still crying in the desert at the time, the racist caricature of white and black has increased. In recent years, one after the other city decided to exchange Zwarte Piet during Sinterklaasintocht (Saint Niclas entry by boat and white horse with his black Pete's) for Soot brush Petes. Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who once proclaimed that Zwarte Piet "is simply black", said last week that he understood that people perceive the caricature as racist.
Quinsy Gario and Jerry Afriyie
People across the country know each other thanks to the anti-blackheaded protests. Those contacts are now used to set up Black Lives Matter demonstrations with united forces. "A national network of anti-blackheaded activists has been under construction for years," said Naomie Pieter of Black Queer & Trans Resistance NL. "Kick Out Zwarte Piet has worked hard to organize people throughout the Netherlands who want to protest against the entry into their city." She herself has been involved in the anti-racism movement for about six years. "It feels like we are now starting to reap the benefits of years of hard work," says Pieter.
For the protest on the Dam, she was invited in a group of messaging service WhatsApp. “More and more people were added to this with the question: what can we do?” She says. “Everyone who is connected came along. In the end, we tied the knot and reported a demonstration to the municipality. ” Black Lives Matter NL is not a "slick organization", she says. "I think this is also the great strength." The same goes for the movement in the United States. This also stems from networks of local activists throughout the country.
There is a facebook page Black Lives Matter NL. It was created on June 2, a day after the protest on Dam Square, and functions as a meeting place where demonstrations are announced and (news) messages are collected.
In recent years, the Anti- Black Piet activists also managed to ensure that several well-known Dutch people, white and black, spoke out against Zwarte Piet and racism. That also seems to be paying off now: on social media, various BNs and influencers, who often have a large following and who people look up to, said that they supported or attended the protests.
Broad and widespread
The leader of the Political party BIJ1, Sylvana Simons, on the right side, with one of her party members on the left side from her. Silvana Hildegard "Sylvana" Simons (born 31 January 1971) is a Dutch politician, actress and television presenter. In December 2016, she founded the political party Artikel 1, later known as Bij1. The anticapitalist and multiculturalist BIJ1 party focuses on fighting racism and discrimination in the Netherlands.
But Zwarte Piet (Black Pete) is not the only reason that people have been coming in large numbers in recent weeks, says university lecturer Karwan Fatah-Black of Leiden University. “The enormous turnouts cannot be explained only by the ongoing debate about Zwarte Piet. It is also about the surcharge affair with the Tax Authorities, where people have been dealt with because of their dual nationality. Or about people who are less likely to apply under their own name.”
Protesters during an anti-racism meeting at the Abbey square in Middelburg, the capital of the Zeeland Province, a city in the South West of the Netherlands I know very well of the first 20 years of my life. Image ANP
The corona crisis may also have had an impact, he says. “People are at home a lot now. That gives time and space to reflect in which country they want to return. ” He also notices how young and colored the protests are. “Also in places where you don't expect it. This shows that this is not a Randstad phenomenon. ” The global Black Lives Matter movement and local organizations are mutually reinforcing, he says. "There is an interaction."
However, each demonstration has its own dynamics. Although a statue of Piet Hein was defaced on Thursday night in Rotterdam, there is less of an iconoclasm, as can be seen in other countries. In Bristol, England, a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was knocked over and thrown into water, a statue of a slave trader was removed in London as a precaution, and in Belgium a statue of King Leopold II was damaged.
"We don't have that many statues either," says Fatah-Black. He does think that the anti-racism movement is now entering a new phase. “We saw several cities that stopped Zwarte Piet in recent years, but the conversation got a bit stuck. I do have the idea that the anti-racism movement will now broaden to more themes.”
Hopeful and optimistic
Black Lives demonstration in the Dutch town of Delft
What makes it difficult to predict how Black Lives Matter NL will develop is the fact that the wish of protesters is so simple that it becomes extremely complicated: stop racism and discrimination. It is no longer only about police violence or Zwarte Piet, but also about discrimination on the labor and housing market. Because of the choices that newspapers and talk shows make, the white parliament, the way in which Europe deals with refugees, the silly jokes towards black Dutch people, the safety of trans people in the nightlife or homophobia on the football field.
However great that may sound, Pieter from Black Queer & Trans Resistance NL and Lemptey from Black Ladies of Groningen are hopeful. "There is something in the air," says Pieter. “I don't know exactly what yet, I can't put words into it yet. That Rutte has said that he understands that Zwarte Piet can be experienced as racist, you could call it meaningless. Of course it is. But still, if you had told me this six months ago, I really would have said, "No dude." This gives me hope.”
In addition, activists must be optimistic, says Lemptey. “There is no point in demonstrating otherwise. Most importantly, we are now talking about racism, recognizing that it exists. ” The latter is increasingly successful, she says. “The demonstrations are now more diverse than before. I see a lot of white people who understand they can be an ally. It takes years of hard work. Slowly but surely that pays off. ”
Demonstration BLM Netherlands in Rotterdam, 3 June 2020