Organizer planning to egg Bezos yacht: "Rotterdammers are proud of their city"
Many Rotterdam residents were angered by news reports that a €430 million superyacht being built for Amazon founder Jeff Bezos could require a monument in the city to be dismantled. Pablo Strörmann is the Rotterdammer behind a Facebook event inviting people to throw eggs at the yacht as it passes through Koningshavenbrug, the historic bridge that holds a special place in the hearts of Rotterdam residents.
"It started more as a joke among friends after we heard the news about the possible dismantling of the bridge," he tells NL Times. It quickly struck a nerve; Within two days of its announcement, about 1,100 people said they will attend, eggs in hand, with another 4,500 expressing their interest. What was initially intended to be a satirical message is now "getting way out of hand," he says.
What bothers him most, is the sense that a double-standard exists. "Normally it’s the other way around: If your ship doesn’t fit under a bridge, you make it smaller. But when you happen to be the richest person on Earth you just ask a municipality to dismantle a monument. That’s ridiculous."
The bridge is known locally as De Hef, and news that it was going to be temporarily dismantled made headlines around the world this week. Rotterdam's mayor, Ahmed Aboutaleb, and some city council members, responded to criticism saying that the project and others like it open up more highly-skilled opportunities for the region. Additionally, if the bridge is dismantled and rebuilt, the city will not be on the hook for the bill.
"I understand the industry is good for the local economy, but I don’t see this as a problem. Many superyachts were built, and will be built, that all fit under the bridge. It's fine that there is also money to be made with the dismantling, but in my opinion it’s not only money that counts," Strörmann says.
Though the railroad bridge is no longer in use, he sees De Hef as an important and evocative structure in Rotterdam. In his opinion, it is a symbol of the city's resurrection after the German's wiped out most of the city center during the Rotterdam Blitz on 14 May 1940. The train bridge was one of the first structures to be restored due to its prior importance to the region's railroad network.
"Rotterdammers are proud of their city," he says. If the city decides against issuing a permit to dismantle De Hef, Strörmann does not intend to move the protest since the point of the event was to make a statement. "I am pretty sure Jeff Bezos has heard about our event; that was the goal. And of course to trigger a public debate."
Trained in online marketing, this isn’t the first time he successfully organized a viral campaign. In 2013, he was told he won a contest from Jupiler beer for a night out with some friends with the bar tab covered. When he received the prize, it turned out to be a buy one, get one free coupon. His reaction letter grew traction on social media, leading to an apology from the brewery. Then, as Feyenoord got closer to winning the national football championship, he launched a petition that was signed over 27,000 times calling on city leadership to allow a weekend celebration instead of a Monday morning tribute.