Anti-Zwarte Piet protests, unlawfully blocked last year, to try again this year

Sinterklaas Amsterdam 2
Police form a line blocking Zwarte Piet protestors in Amsterdam. Nov. 16, 2014 (tui_tues/Twitter). (Police form a line blocking Zwarte Piet protestors in Amsterdam. Nov. 16, 2014 (tui_tues/Twitter))

Activists angered by the use of blackface around the Dutch Sinterklaas tradition are planning to protest in Dokkum on Saturday. The protestors had previously made arrangements with the municipality to lawfully demonstrate in the Friesland town at the televised Sinterklaas arrival last year, but their buses were stopped by people who created a blockade on the A7 motorway shutting down all traffic on a main road into the province.

Some 34 counter-protestors who participated in the blockade were sentenced to at least 80 hours of community service for preventing the legally-organized rally and for creating a dangerous situation on the highway. All convicted suspects are from Friesland, including organizer Jenny Douwes who received 240 hours of community service.

The protestors from Kick Out Zwarte Piet also has plans to appear in nearly 20 cities this year, including the Friesland city of Leeuwarden. Organizer Joyce Beukema told local media there that a "musical protest" is planned. She reassured residents that the protest will not be very large, and is meant to raise awareness of racist overtones associated with blackface and the Zwarte Piet character that assists Sinterklaas.

She was joined by Jerry Afriyie, one of the KOZP leaders and a prominent race equality activist in the Netherlands, at a meeting in Friesland on Thursday night. The pair met with a handful of Frisians involved in last year's blockade for a peaceful conversation about the issue and this year's plans. The Leeuwarder Courant, a local newspaper, noted it was the third time Afriyie encountered the Zwarte Piet proponents.

The first time was at the highway shutdown. The second was in court last month.

It is still not clear which protestors will get access to the nationally televised Sinterklaas arrival in Zaandam. Mayor Jan Hamming is consulting with different groups, and has so far given permission to two anti-Zwarte Piet organizers and two pro-Zwarte Piet groups. At least one group of right-wing extremists said it wants dozens of its supporters to defend the blackface tradition in the Noord-Holland city.

KOZP is not planning on a Zaandam demonstration, but it is organizing protests in Rotterdam, Den Haag, Groningen, Eindhoven, Nijmegen, and even Willemstad on the island of Curaçao. They'll be given a closed-off section along the parade route in Groningen to protest, while counter-protesters will also have access to their own section, the Telegraaf reported.

Other cities, like Rotterdam, plan to separate protestors and counter-protestors, and keep them somewhat further away from the parade route. "The municipality thinks it is important that they can give their opinion, but also that the arrival is festive for the children and their parents," a spokesperson told AD.

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