This article was originally published on Maximum Amsterdam
The 10th of July, the Black Lives Matter Movement gathered on Dam Square to show solidarity not only to the mass killings in the US, but also the ones happening in the Netherlands. Police violence is a subject well-disputed over in America, however it seems to be more taboo in the Netherlands. Are racism and violence components of the said liberal and tolerant country?
TEXT BY MYA BERGER (MOROCCO)
PHOTOGRAPHY BY HANNAH BRONS HARPER (UK) & ROOS KRUIMER
“When we say Black Lives Matter, we are broadening the conversation around state violence to include all of the ways in which Black people are intentionally left powerless at the hands of the state. We are talking about the ways in which Black lives are deprived of our basic human rights and dignity.”
This analysis of Dana Saxon, an expat from Philadelphia, offers a great perspective on the Black Lives Matter movement worldwide. She explains that the Dutch population shows great solidarity to the movement in the US. She also denounces the fact that ‘black lives are being hunted globally’. The Black Lives Matter movement started in the US in 2013 as a reaction to police violence and racism, and seems to be supported in several other countries.
It spread rather quickly in other continents, as several demonstrations took place in other European cities after the Alton Sterling and Philando Castile shootings in the beginning of July. London, Paris and Berlin were big cities in which the peaceful protests took place.
Dam Square protest
Approximately 400 people gathered Sunday 10 July 2016 on Dam Square to protest against police violence in Amsterdam. They were aiming to fight for the issue in the US, but also in the Netherlands. The death of Mitch Henriquez seems to have sparked up the debate here. This Aruban man was murdered in The Hague in June 2015. He was at a music festival when a group of police officers approached him. Several videos on the internet show how he was severely beaten up, even when unconscious. The police claimed that the officers only used force as Henriquez was resisting the arrest. The footage shows him being carried into the van, unable to move. The deaths of Mitchel Winters, Rishi Chandrikasingh and Ihsan Gürz further fuelled the debate.
‘An electrical and highly emotional atmosphere arose from the peaceful demonstration’
The speakers at the demonstration pointed out issues such as inequality in the population, violence and racial profiling in the Netherlands, as well as the much talked about issue of neo-colonialism (and colonialism). With their fists in the air, people shouted slogans like ‘hands up, don’t shoot’, ‘I matter’, ‘no peace, no justice’, and ‘I can’t breathe’. An electrical and highly emotional atmosphere arose from the speeches, the chants, and the different moments of the peaceful demonstration.
Racism in the Netherlands
Extreme police violence is a surprising phenomena in the Netherlands. This 2013 Amnesty International report showed the presence of racial profiling in police technique. The country gives an image of an open state, where racism and violence are minor issues (despite the political rise of Geert Wilders).
‘We like to hide behind this image of being liberal and tolerant, which we definitely are not’
As this article points out, racism tends to be highly insidious and ‘discreet’ in the Netherlands. Jessica de Abreu, a Dutch anti-racist organiser and European Network for People of African Descent spokesperson, explained that “In the Netherlands, you don’t have this massive murder, but as Europeans — especially in the Netherlands — we like to hide behind this image of being liberal and tolerant, which we definitely are not. And if you talk about racism, you’re silenced.”
The Black Lives Matter movement is still active in the Netherlands, projects of future peaceful demonstrations and events are in progress. The group also has a Facebook group (private) that remains active. Members are welcome to offer information, articles, ideas and others to the movement.