Roughly 5,000 join Black Lives Matter protest on Dam Square; "We have work to do"
Crowds of several thousand protestors gathered peacefully on the Dam Square in central Amsterdam on Monday to display solidarity with protestors in the United States and to protest what they assert is a culture of systemic racism in the Netherlands. Authorities told NL Times they had initially been expecting some 500 people to show up on the Dam Square. The actual number, which the municipality said was closer to ten times the original estimate, came as a surprise.
The protest follows the death of George Floyd in the United States on May 25, which incited multiple Black Lives Matter protests throughout that country, and several in Europe, in recent days. Footage of Floyd's arrest surfaced online, and depicted a police officer kneeling on the black man's throat for minutes while Floyd pleaded with them, saying he could not breathe. He was pronounced dead a short time later.
Among the issues voiced by the event's organizers, who included Black Heritage Tours founder Jennifer Tosch and New Urban Collective head Mitchell Esajas, was the prevalence of Zwarte Piet in Dutch society, which is widely seen as a racist symbol as a result of its association with black face, as well as an alleged system of racial injustice that traces its origins back to the days of colonialism.
Tosch made it clear in a speech to supporters that the peaceful protest, in contrast to violent incidents which have played out in the United States the past few days, was the continuation of a movement, and not to be confused with a triumphant conclusion. "I'm not here to make you feel [you should] congratulate yourself because we're doing something better here in the Netherlands. We have work to do," she told the demonstrators, many of whom were fielding signs that read 'Black Lives Matter', and 'Enough', among others.
The protest began at around 5 p.m. and remained orderly and peaceful for its duration. It had largely dissipated by 7:30 p.m. According to police present at the scene, who spoke to NL Times, there was no concern among law enforcement around the potential for violence, saying instead that their biggest concern was that some people may pass out in the late afternoon heat.
Demonstrators were advised beforehand by the event's organizers to wear masks and to be mindful of social distancing. However, in reality, this remained difficult to ensure.