On Saturday afternoon, a planned demonstration against Zwarte Piet in Maastricht was disrupted by counter-protesters. Tensions at the scene escalated, leading to violence and police intervention.
The action group Kick Out Zwarte (KOZP) had a permit from the municipality to demonstrate against the blackface character on the Vrijthof (a central square). But when counter-protesters gathered and the atmosphere became threatening, the police mobile unit had to intervene.
They used horses and dogs to keep the counter-protesters at a distance. The police were pelted with fireworks.
KOZP spokesperson tells NU that demonstrating at the second scene was impossible. “That place was almost next to the Vrijthof. There were a lot of threats and a lot of violence. People threw things and there was shouting. We, therefore, stopped our action prematurely.”
Violence at the second location
The demonstration was moved to a new secret location, a nearby shopping area, under police escort. But the effort was to no avail — the peaceful protesters were soon surrounded again by hundreds of counter-demonstrators.
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Police facilitate a safe ending
About an hour and a half later, when Zwarte Piet protesters decided to end the demonstration, the police helped facilitate a safe ending.
Maastricht Mayor Annemarie Penn-te Strake is disappointed the police had to intervene. She says, “Demonstration is a fundamental right, so a demonstration cannot simply be prohibited. It is our duty to protect that fundamental right, even in this corona time, because demonstrations are an exception. It is hard to justify people who wanted to disrupt the demonstration.”
What do you think of the Zwarte Piet protests and counter-protests? Tell us in the comments below.
Feature Image: Ben Koorengevel/Unsplash