Prosecutors launch hate speech case over white supremacy texts on Rotterdam bridge
The series of discriminatory messages projected onto the Erasmus Bridge during the New Year's celebration in Rotterdam are criminally punishable, said the Public Prosecution Service (OM) on Tuesday. Prosecutors are now working with police to try and determine who was responsible for the stunt.
A Telegram group called "White Lives Matter" that claims to be made up of Dutch and German members has taken responsibility for the act. The group said a collaborative effort led to the stunt, which made use of a laser projector. Police previously said they believed the words were projected from a boat.
One of the statements, often referred to as "14 Words," was popularized by American neo-Nazi David Lane, and read, "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children." Another was "White Lives Matter," a reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement first popularized by an American white supremacist organization. Advocates say the statement attempts to pretend like racism does not exist in society.
The OM said that the use of discriminatory hate speech was evident, "based on the context in which the statements were made, and their coherence." Prosecutors went on to note the importance of freedom of speech as a fundamental right in the Netherlands. "But there are limits to that freedom of expression. One of those limits is that expressions may never incite discrimination or offend another segment of the population."
The statements were clearly visible by people on the quay near the bridge attending the national New Year's event organized in Rotterdam. They were also inadvertently shown on television by RTL 4, which broadcast the event.
The other statements projected on the bridge include, “Vrolijk Blank 2023 - Happy White 2023,” where the Dutch word "blank" has been criticized as being discriminatory for suggesting people with an absence of color are superior to others. Another message was “Zwarte Piet deed niets verkeerd,” which translates to “Zwarte Piet did nothing wrong.” That statement refers to Zwarte Piet, a holiday character often portrayed by white actors in blackface makeup.
Prosecutors asked people witnesses to contact the police if they saw anything suspicious, such as how the messages were projected on the bridge.