Anti-Racism protest in Amsterdam draws thousands; Four arrests

Comité 21 maart anti-racism protest
Nearly 10,000 protestors rally at the anti-racism event on Dam Square in Amsterdam. 23 March 2019photo: Comité 21 maart / Facebook

Nearly ten thousand people rallied in Amsterdam on Saturday calling for an end to racism and divisiveness in Dutch politics. The event began on Dam Square and then progressed to the monument on Daniël Meijerplein, but counter-protestors along the way were arrested for allegedly disturbing the peace.

Saturday's rally was organized by Comité 21 maart, an organization that fights against forms of discrimination including Islamophobia, anti-black racism, and anti-Semitism, according to their website. March 21 is the United Nations' International Day for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination.

"I am marching today, especially today, to signal that racism and xenophobia have no place in our society," activist Naomie Pieter told AT5. She helped found Daughters of Ivory and Black Queer & Trans Resistance NL, non-profit organizations for women of color and Amsterdam's LGBTQ community. She also explicitly described some of the racist epithets said to her on social media.

Police said the event was mostly smooth, though four people were arrested in total. Three counter-protestors on Oude Turfmarkt were variously accused of disturbing the peace, not complying with police orders, and verbal abuse. A fourth person was arrested in connection with a prior assault, police said. City administrators, police, and the prosecutor's office set forth strict rules for several protests in Amsterdam including the anti-racism demonstration and its counter-protestors.

The marchers were supported by several left-wing political parties, including the green GroenLinks, socialist SP, animal rights party PvdD, and BIJ1 and Denk, which both focus on diversity and multiculturalism issues.

"Stop FVD: racist, sexist, climate deniers," read one sign referencing the Forum voor Democratie, a far right nationalist political party that is expected to take up to 13 of the 75 seats in the upper house of Dutch parliament. "Say 'no' against the PVV," another sign said.

PVV leader and Anti-Islam nationalist politician Geert Wilders replied with a snarky "Loonies in Amsterdam" tweet on social media.

Daniël Meijerplein is the location where, in 1941, Nazis rounded up hundreds of Jewish men and sent them off to concentration camps. It prompted the February Strikes when thousands of people walked off their jobs to protest against the Nazi action.

Another protest in Amsterdam drew many out to Dam Square to protest against changes to the European Union copyright law. The protesters called the new restrictions far too strict and punitive.