Police failed to protect anti-Zwarte Piet group at Staphorst

Pro-blackface protestors block cars from going to Staphorst. Photo: Persbureau Meter

The police failed to properly protect campaigners heading for an anti-Zwarte Piet rally in Staphorst last year when they were attacked by a group who wanted to stop them, justice ministry inspectors said on Thursday. 

Police were not prepared for the scale of the counter-protest and had underestimated the likelihood of pro-Piet supporters closing roads, the report said. The rally was called off by the mayor at the last minute. 

Members of the Kick Out Zwarte Piet (KOZP) campaign group wanted to demonstrate on the fringes of the town’s Sinterklaas procession but the buses and cars they were travelling in which stopped by a pro-Piet mob on the A28 slip road.

One of the cars which was stopped was carrying observers from Amnesty International.

Amnesty International’s Gerbrig Klos, one of three people in the car that was attacked, said at the time she had felt extremely threatened by the pro-blackface group.

 ‘We were surrounded and attacked by dozens of people,’ she told the AD. ‘They were out to frighten us and stop us from reaching the village. They kicked the car, and threw eggs and an oily substance at us. My car has dents, the number plate and windscreen wipers have been ripped off and the back tyres were let down.’

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, however, has decided not to hold a Sinterklaas procession this year. 

KOZP is planning to renew its campaign against blackface Piets this year and will focus on demonstrations and “civil disobedience” campaigns, the organisation said earlier this week.

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