Cop hurt at pro-Zwarte Piet demonstration; 5 arrested
A police officer had to be treated in hospital for hearing damage after a counter-demonstrator threw fireworks at them at a Kick Out Zwarte Piet (KOZP) demonstration in Maastricht on Sunday. Several hundred counter-protesters showed up at the demonstration. Five people were arrested, including three suspected of attempted aggravated assault, a police spokesperson confirmed to NU.nl. More arrests may follow after camera footage was viewed, the spokesperson said.
The KOZP demonstration was scheduled to be held on the Vrijthof from 2:00 p.m., but it was moved to the Mosae Forum at the last minute when counter-protesters started showing up. A handful of anti-racism protesters remained on the Vrijthof. They were quickly surrounded by several hundred counter-protesters. The riot police had to intervene to protect the KOZP protesters, who were eventually escorted to a secret location, according to the newspaper.
The riot police had to intervene multiple times, in some cases using horses and dogs to keep demonstrators apart. The riot police formed a line around the KOZP activists to protect them from the counter-protesters, who threw stones and fireworks at the police.
Maastricht mayor Annemarie Penn-te Strake said that the police, municipality, and local Public Prosecutor received signals in the course of Saturday that a large group of counter-protesters would show up at the protest against blackface Zwarte Piet. The police deployment was therefore scaled-up. She called it regrettable that the riot police had to intervene.
"Demonstration is a fundamental right, a demonstration can therefore not just be forbidden," Penn-te Strake said. "It is our duty to protect that fundamental right, also in this corona time, because demonstrations are exceptions. That people want to disturb the demonstration is not justifiable."
Calm only returned to the city after the KOZP demonstrators left the city center and it started to rain. A KOZP spokesperson told NU.nl that all their protesters had left Maastricht by 5:00 p.m.
A Kick Out Zwarte Piet protest was held in Breda on Saturday. About 50 KOZP protesters participated, and some 30 counter-protesters showed up. That demonstration happened without incident. More protests are planned for the coming weeks.