Hoorn to organize racism dialogue with residents after statue protests

Police surround the J.P. Coen statue in Hoorn
Police surround the J.P. Coen statue in Hoorn. 19 June 2020Gemeente Hoorn

The municipality of Hoorn wants to organize a decent conversation about racism and how people treat each other with its residents, after demonstrations around the statue of Jan Pieterzoon Coen got out of hand on Friday, a situation in which the actual protestors were not believed to be involved. This discussion will likely take place after the summer, Mayor Jan Nieuwenburg said in a statement

"What worries us is that disagreements too often lead to vulgar abuse or worse. The extremes rule in the debate, leaving no room for nuance," Nieuwenburg said. He therefore wants to organize an "open and broad city discussion". Because the discussion about controversial figures like Coen must be held, that is part of societal growth, Nieuwenburg said. 

According to the mayor, the city received all kinds of responses and signals over the past weeks. "The petitions, media stories, letters sent in, social media posts, emails and phone calls. About Coen, for and against. But also about Black Lives Matter, unequal opportunities, racism, discrimination, and feelings of exclusion. It is many and divers. And we hear and see you all."

Which is why this discussion is necessary, Nieuwenburg said. "Not only about Coen, but also about how we live together, look at each other, and interact," Nieuwenburg said. "In Hoorn, everyone is equal and everyone counts." 

But he also stressed that discussions must be held in a decent way, and not with riots like what happened over the weekend. "That had nothing to do with freedom of expression. It was simply unacceptable, antisocial behavior that has no place in our city. And as city council, we will never listen to people who use violence."

The municipality is currently trying to figure out the logistics of this discussion - and called on residents with ideas to come forward. "We will use the summer period to further develop this and will come back to this after the summer," Nieuwenburg said.