Unmute Us! Tens of thousands protest against event sector shutdown; 35,000 in Amsterdam
This story was updated with additional information.
More than 150,000 people took to the streets in the Unmute Us! protests in ten cities on Saturday, according to organizers, though their claims were not immediately verified by authorities. They demanded that national and local governments adjust the coronavirus policy by allowing major events to immediately resume and nightclubs to open back up again.
The city of Amsterdam said about 35,000 showed up there, but organizers put the figure closer to 80,000. Thousands arrived in Westerpark even before a protest march kicked off. About 15,000 participants were expected. So many people showed up that the capital sent out a message on Twitter stating, “Don’t come here.”
Organizers were initially unable to say how many people showed up in Amsterdam. The demonstrators were scheduled to march on a route through Amsterdam, starting and ending at the Westerpark.
Unmute Us! claimed 15,000 people attended in Utrecht, Groningen, Maastricht and Eindhoven, but the municipalities estimated the number of participants to be lower. For example, Utrecht and Maastricht each reported 10,000 participants.
It was also considered too busy in The Hague, where up to 10,000 showed up when 5,000 were expected.
In Maastricht, the organization said 7,000 showed up by 2 p.m. when only a thousand were expected. There are many participants from those who take part in the annual Carnival celebrations.
People of all ages showed up for the protest in Utrecht, including orchestra members, festival organizers, people who work in clubs, and people who want to dance again. Various parade cars and signs indicate that people no longer understand why the coronavirus policy has remained so harsh towards nightclubs, and both the event and cultural sectors.
The protest action in Utrecht seemed like a sort of dance parade with people jumping and gyrating throughout the march. The procession is also garnering a great deal of support from a large numbers of spectators, with thousands attending on the sidelines.
Thousands of demonstrators also flocked to Eindhoven, and started the march through the city in the afternoon. Thousands more also gathered on the Malieveld in The Hague and began their walk through the city center. A maximum of 5,000 people were expected there, which also drew attendees from Rotterdam where there was no space for their own protest on Saturday.
Many people were again marching through the city center of Groningen. In addition, 25 parade cars will participate in the march, more than in any other city, according to the organization. Music was being blasted out of sound systems on the vehicles, and people were waving signs with slogans calling for a return of House music, and calling for an end to the 1.5 meter physical distancing rules.
One of the participating cars in Groningen is from Agora Events. "We are here because the events sector has to open again. We are now making ourselves heard throughout the city, because it has been so quiet." The mood there was jubilant. People were drinking beer and dancing to the music.
Sixteen cars and floats were also planned for the protest in Enschede. Five large vehicles are taking part in Leiden, twelve in Amsterdam and six in Nijmegen. The cars are from organizations in the cities themselves, but also from surrounding areas. In Groningen, for example, a car comes on behalf of a Groningen cleaning company, but also from the shots bar Bebida's from Leeuwarden. Cars from Deventer and Hengelo will also be present in Enschede, according organizers.
The demonstrations were also planned in Maastricht, Tilburg and Utrecht during the afternoon. It is the second time that the events sector has taken to the streets. The first protests on August 21 brought over 70,000 people and over 2,500 organizations out onto the streets. The new protests were called because there were no substantive commitments from the government.
According to the organizers of the protest, the sector can open "without the pressure on healthcare growing exponentially". They see proof of this in events such as football matches and the recent Formula 1 race in Zandvoort. Their appeal to the Cabinet therefore reads: "Stop being arbitrary and open all large-scale events."
"The event industry has shown time and again that it can organize events safely. So there can be no other cabinet decision than full opening on 14 September," said director Ruben Brouwer of concert organizer MOJO.
Reporting by ANP