BLM: Over 10,000 join "pleasant and peaceful" event in Amsterdam
The Black Lives Matter demonstration against police brutality and systemic racism drew a crowd of over ten thousand people to the ethnically diverse Amsterdam neighborhood of the Bijlmer in the city's Zuidoost district on Wednesday. A series of speeches began at about 5 p.m., with the protest ending without incident and most people having left the Nelson Mandelapark by 7:40 p.m.
Some officials on the ground suggested the estimate from city hall might be off and that as many as 14 thousand were in attendance. Nevertheless, the city said it was a "pleasant and peaceful" event where everyone had enough space to adhere to social distancing rules.
The Bijlmer was selected as the location for the event with residents there saying they have been subjected to heavy-handed policing and racial discrimination for decades. "When I look from the stage, I just get goosebumps. I see people saying, 'Enough is enough,'" said Mitchell Esajas, a community activist and one of the event's speakers.
"Black lives matter and it's been five minutes to midnight for 400 years. Let's stop dividing and rule. We need each other," said another prominent activist, Jerry Afriyie.
The protest was held at the park with the city able to guarantee enough space for the thousands of spectators expected to attend. A June 1 event for the Black Lives Matter movement, held on Dam Square in Amsterdam, also drew over ten thousand people by many estimates.
That event sparked a backlash from opposition parties against the city's mayor, Femke Halsema, who allowed the event to continue despite concerns about crowding. Ten days later, Halsema was still defending her decisions, garnering the support of many mayors around the country and even showing a WhatsApp thread that suggested she had approval from the cabinet minister for security.
In an attempt to avoid similar accusations for the Wednesday event, the protest was moved to the park from a nearby neighborhood square, and 18,000 marks were spray-painted on the grass to give protestors the opportunity to keep a safe social distance.
"It is important that we take a stand together against racism. I also feel the energy with all the people. Wonderful to see," one demonstrator told broadcaster AT5. "I think it is important that we make ourselves heard, and that we really show that even if this movement has started in America, that it also plays out in the Netherlands."
Another person said he was tired of being the butt of racist jokes from his classmates and stereotypes from his coworkers. "I'm fed up. I can't hold it in anymore. That's why I'm here."