Petitions for A'dam mayor to both stay and step down gaining steam

Two online petitions regarding Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema received tens of thousands of signatures. One calls for her to stay on as mayor after she allowed an anti-racism and -police brutality protest to continue on Monday, despite a lack of social distancing. The other calls for her to step down. 

The petition for Halsema to stay on as mayor has more support with 44,255 signatures at 7:15 a.m. on Friday. The one for her to step down had 37,659 signatures at the same time.

As can be seen with these petitions, Halsema's decision to let the demonstration continue received both support and criticism. Supporters point out that deploying police to end a demonstration against racist police brutality would have escalated matters. This was Halsema's argument too. Critics said she may have caused another coronavirus outbreak.

On Thursday, a text conversation between Halsema and Justice Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus about the demonstration surfaced. They disagreed about how to talk about the demonstration and the lack of social distancing reports. Halsema sought support from the Minister for her decision not to stop the demonstration, which quickly grew from the expected few hundred demonstrators to some 5 thousand. 

Grapperhaus wrote to Halsema that he understands why social distancing wasn't enforced, but there was no consultation with him about that decision, as Halsema would have liked to say. The Amsterdam mayor concluded the conversation with: "I would have liked you not to put me out in the cold." Grapperhaus concluded that not forcibly stopping the demonstration was the "least bad solution". 

The Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, had many questions about this text conversation and at PVV leader Geert Wilders' request, Grapperhaus was summoned to a parliamentary meeting on Thursday to answer them. The Justice Minister does not understand the fuss, he said. "I have a lot to do with mayors, especially during corona times," he said. "I don't understand the excitement about it."

During the coronavirus crisis, Grapperhaus attends the weekly meetings of the Security Council, which consists of the mayors at the head of the 25 security regions in the Netherlands. After Monday's Black Lives Matter demonstration in Amsterdam, it was agreed with the Security Council that such a situation will be prevented in the future. A Black Lives Matter demonstration in Rotterdam on Wednesday was ended prematurely when social distancing was not being maintained, with some unrest as a result. 

Halsema also decided not to allow any further protests on Dam Square while social distancing measures are in place.