Zwarte Piet supporters to face court for blocking Dutch highway

Kick Out Zwarte Piet blocked from protesting racism in Friesland Netherlands on Sinterklaas
The A7 highway blocked near Heerenveen by about 35 people refusing to let groups of people pass through to protest Zwarte Piet, blackface and racism at the Sinterklaas arrival in Dokkum, Friesland. 18 Nov. 2017photo: "Otto" / Kick Out Zwarte Piet

A total of 34 Zwarte Piet supporters will be criminally prosecuted for blocking the A7 highway at Joure before Sinterklaas' national arrival in Dokkum last year, the Prosecutor announced. They blocked the highway to prevent anti-Zwarte Piet activists reaching Dokkum to demonstrate at the arrival party.

The highway blockade happened on November 18th. The Zwarte Piet supporters stopped buses on the highway carrying anti-Zwarte Piet activists. As a result, the activists did not make it to their pre-arranged demonstration. The blockade also caused a massive traffic jam and a number of collisions. 

"The risks of such an action on a highway are such that criminal prosecution is appropriate", the Public Prosecutor said in a statement on Thursday, adding that "the right to demonstrate is an important right in our Constitution."

The police did not arrest any of the involved Zwarte Piet supporters on the day of the blockade, to get the highway cleared as quickly as possible. All their names were taken down, but it still took the police some time to identify all of them. 

The anti-Zwarte Piet activists were sent home, out of fear for disturbances. Mayor Marga Waanders of Dongeradeel - which covers Dokkum - later said that the last minute demonstration ban was due to information that protesters planned to use heavy fireworks. 

As a result of this demonstration being canceled, action group Kick Out Zwarte Piet stated that they will no longer announce planned demonstrations, to prevent similar actions stopping future demonstrations, RTL Nieuws reports. "We are being sent back, and those rioters get their way", activist Jerry Afriyie of Kick Out Zwarte Piet said to the broadcaster on the day of the blockade. 

The 34 Zwarte Piet supporters will appear in the court of Leeuwarden on June 6th, 7th, and 8th. Their summonses were sent to them this week.