Intelligence service warned Rotterdam mayor about anti-blackface protesters

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No image availableNL Times

Both intelligence service AIVD and the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security Dick Schoof contacted Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb prior to Sinterklaas' arrival in Maassluis on Saturday to warn him about possible clashes between anti-blackface Zwarte Piet activists, right-wing protesters and hooligans, the mayor said in a debate with his city council on Thursday, NOS reports.

On Saturday nearly 200 people were arrested in Rotterdam. They wanted to demonstrate against Zwarte Piet, but had no permission to do so in Rotterdam. 

The Rotterdam factios of GroenLinks, PvdA, SP and islamic party NIDA feel that Aboutaleb did not do enough to allow the demonstration to happen. They are demanding a thorough investigation into what happened.

The Mayor countered by saying that he is a strong supporter of freedom of expression, but he is also responsible for ensuring the safety of children and their parents during Sinterklaas' arrival party. Aboutaleb added that he feels misled by the anti-blackface protesters Kick Out Zwarte Piet. They said they were going to Maassluis to protest, where arrangements were made for this to happen. But instead they detoured to Rotterdam, who was shorthanded as many extra police officers were deployed to Maassluis to help with the national arrival.

Aboutaleb also criticized Amnesty International, who sent him a letter criticizing the arrests. The human rights organization called for an investigation into the violence the police used during the mass arrests, and accused Aboutaleb of restricting the right to freedom of expression with his ban on demonstrations for Saturday. According to Amnesty, the Mayor should be protecting activists against aggressive supporters of Zwarte Piet. According to the Mayor, Amnesty did not get all the facts from the police or municipality before writing their letter.