Mayor cancels anti-racism demo after pro-blackface mob stops cars

Pro-blackface locals stop cars. Photo: Persbureau Meter via ANP
Pro-blackface locals stop cars. Photo: Persbureau Meter via ANP

The mayor of the Bible Belt village of Staphorst cancelled a demonstration by anti-racism protestors at the last minute on Saturday, after supporters of blackface Zwarte Piet turned out in force to stop them from attending.

Riot police were called out ahead of the Sinterklaas procession in the village after pro blackface demonstrators blocked roads and threw eggs and fireworks at members of the Kick Out Zwarte Piet (KOZP) movement as they tried to reach the protest site.

Most of the trouble was at the A28 slip road, where hundreds of blackface Piet supporters, some in blackface makeup, tried to stop cars with the KOZP demonstrators from entering the village.

Although blackface Piets have largely disappeared from bigger Dutch towns and cities, they are still a feature of the Sinterklaas celebrations in more rural areas.

Staphorst council, which had given permission for the KOZP demonstration, cancelled the permit shortly before it was due to start, saying officials could not guarantee the safety of the protestors.

‘Once again, we have been deprived of our right to demonstrate at the last minute and the authorities have silenced us in favour of the group which does not want us to have that right,’ KOZP spokesman Jerry Afriyie said.

A team of observers from Amnesty International were also prevented from reaching Staphorst. Dutch director Dagmar Oudshoorn told the NOS Radio that people had ‘formed a cordon around the village and attacked cars’.

‘They punctured tyres, threw eggs and oil and other things. But what is really over the top is that they intimidated and threatened my people,’ he said. ‘And that they stopped people who were on their way to a peaceful demonstration.’

Last week, Amnesty issued warning that the right to demonstrate in the Netherlands was coming under increasing pressure.

National and local government in the Netherlands is placing too many restrictions on demonstrations by emphasising public order issues, the report said.

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