Protesters disrupt national slavery commemoration

Commemoration of the abolition of slavery at in Oosterpark in Amsterdam, 30 June 2016 (Photo: @28Harry/Twitter)Commemoration of the abolition of slavery at in Oosterpark in Amsterdam, 30 June 2016 (Photo: @28Harry/Twitter)

Dozens of protesters disrupted the national commemoration of the abolition of slavery in Amsterdam's Oosterpark on Thursday evening. They protested against organizer NiNsee's decision to hold the commemoration on June 30th, instead of the usual July 1st, ANP reports. Today, July 1st, 2016, is the 153rd anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Suriname and the former Dutch Antilles. In previous years the commemoration was held on July 1st, followed by the celebration the next day. But this year NiNsee, the National Institute of Dutch Slavery History, decided to split the two. The protesters did not agree with this decision. To express their displeasure, the protesters blew on whistles and beat on pot lids. They handed Mayor Eberhard van der Laan a petition demanding that the decision be reversed and the commemoration be held on July 1st. The Amsterdam mayor promised to have a meeting about the issue with the protesters before the summer break. He then invited them to either participate in the commemoration or leave. The commemoration finally started 25 minutes late, with protesters still making noise at the back. There were numerous interruptions during the speeches, each followed by an appeal to the protesters not to disrupt the speeches. The police and former footballer Clarence Seedorf, among others, asked the protesters to quiet down and continue the discussion on a later date, so that the commemoration can continue.

A few people spoke during the commemoration, including Minister Jet Bussemaker of Education, Culture and Science. "Although slavery has been abolished, it still happens in our country that someone is denied their identity or have another identity forced upon them", she said, mentioning an incident with rapper Typhoon being pulled over because his "profile" did not match his expensive car. She also spoke about the Zwarte Piet debate and the emotions it brings up in people. Mayor Van der Laan also gave a speech. "The criminal history of slave trade is still visible in the city and is closely related to the contemporary Amsterdam and the way we live together", he said. "That's not always easy, tonight was proof of that, and there are different ways on how to do it. We all agree that it must be done: with an open look to the past, greeting the future together."