Thousands at Black Lives Matter demo in Amsterdam
(10 Jun 2020) Thousands of people demonstrated on Wednesday in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in a park in Amsterdam, named after South African anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.
It was the latest in a series of protests in Dutch cities that have followed the death of George Floyd in Minnesota on May 25.
“We are here to hold up a fist against the global pandemic of racism,” protester Mitchell Esajas told the crowd.
Floyd, a black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on his neck even after he pleaded for air while lying handcuffed on the ground.
He was buried Tuesday in Houston after a funeral service at which speakers predicted he will be remembered forever for changing history.
Public debate about racism, discrimination and historical links to the slave trade have intensified in the Netherlands since Floyd’s death.
A Dutch human rights organization called on the government Wednesday to appoint a coordinator to help tackle what it called “structural discrimination” in the Netherlands.
Dutch debate about race has often been dominated by a children’s character known as Black Pete, who is frequently portrayed by white people in blackface makeup during St. Nicholas festivities in early December.
The first speaker to address the Amsterdam demonstration wore a hoodie emblazoned with the words “Black Pete is racism.”
Last week, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he had undergone a significant change in his views about Black Pete, although he maintained that he does not believe the character is racist.
Rutte has said he won’t ban Black Pete.
Debate also is on the rise about statues and other buildings and street names honouring historical figures linked to Dutch involvement in the slave trade.
Some of the mansions lining Amsterdam’s historic canals — including even the official residence of the city’s mayor — were built for wealthy 17th century traders who held prominent positions in companies that bought and sold slaves.
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