12 arrests after protests against Dutch East Indies statue in Hoorn
Skirmishes after a largely peaceful protest in Hoorn led to a dozen arrests near the statue of a controversial figure in Hoorn. A few hundred people attended the demonstration against a statue of Jan Pieterszoon Coen, a 17th century officer who mercilessly used violence against indigenous peoples to take control of the spice trade for the Dutch East India Company.
The evening started in Hoorn with a demonstration in favor of the bronze statue, which drew about 20 people. One woman in attendance, who declined to share her name, told newspaper AD that the statue of the hometown figure represents exciting tales from the past of sailors traveling off to far away lands. "I find it hurtful that they want to destroy the statue. The little beauty we have left," she said.
"First Zwarte Piet has to leave and now this. It goes from bad to worse."
Supporters said they were disappointed by the low turnout. They left their site, taking down their Dutch flags with the phrase "Dispereert niet", or "Do not despair", written on them. The two-word phrase is part of a quote attributed to Coen: "Do not despair, Do not spare you enemies, for God is with us."
Not far from there, several hundred opponents to the statue gathered to voice their disdain for glorifying a figure linked to genocidal practices and slavery. "I am aware that the Golden Age has made our country great. That we still benefit from that. But it is at the expense of my ancestors, the Moluccans," said Leonora Vlek to AD.
"Coen brought us a great deal of prosperity, but was also brutal with the population," Adraan de Boer told NH Nieuws. "He killed thousands of people. You shouldn't be applauding or standing behind that."
Others said the statue belonged in the West-Fries Museum, in Hoorn, where it could be displayed with context in a less celebrated way. The museum held an exhibit five years ago to teach people about all sides of the debate and the sailor's controversial past.
The protest carried on without incident at a location away from the statue designated by authorities. After, a "fairly large group of people" broke off from the protest site, and tried to make their way through the city center to the statues, police told NOS. It was not clear if these people were actually taking part in the demonstration, witnesses said on social media.
ME beschermt standbeeld JP Coen in Hoorn pic.twitter.com/IKnttF06T5— Robert-Jan Knook (@robertjanknook) June 19, 2020
Some carried terrace chairs and tables like shields as they marched down the street while others lit smoke bombs and fireworks, police said. Officers established a perimeter, and set up about 16 officers in riot gear around the statue, NOS reported.
No injuries were reported in the minor clashes. Twelve people were arrested in total for disobeying police orders and public violence. One was also accused of public urination for relieving himself on the statue.