Tuesday 22 September 2020

Nationalists who blocked motorway to stop Zwarte Piet demo may face legal action

A pro-Piet supporter during the motorway confrontation. Photo: Joris van Gennip / HH

The public prosecution department is assessing whether the pro-Zwarte Piet campaigners who blocked the A7 motorway to stop anti-racism demonstrators reaching Dokkum on Saturday should face legal action.

Several dozen people, many thought to be members of extreme right nationalist organisations, stopped the buses carrying some 120 the demonstrators by braking in front of them on the highway, forcing all traffic to a halt.

The action led to the demonstration being cancelled by the mayor on public order grounds. The demonstrators had been given a licence to protest during the arrival of Sinterklaas in the Frisian village.

A police spokesman told the NRC that blocking the motorway ‘with all the risks associated with it’ was ‘not acceptable’.

‘We will look into all the criminal offences together with the public prosecutor,’ a spokesman told the paper.

No-one was arrested during Saturday’s stand-off but police did photograph the number plates of all vehicles involved in forming the blockade. Not everyone’s personal details were written down, in order to speed up the road clearing operation, the NRC said.

Risk

Legal experts say the blockades were illegal because of the risk to human life. The pro-Piet campaigners could also face prosecution for denying others their lawful right to demonstrate.

Prime minister Mark Rutte has also come in for criticism for not condemning the action of the pro-Piet camp. Asked by local broadcaster RTV Noord about the protests, Rutte said: ‘Sinterklaas is a great tradition, a party for children… and I do not want children to be confronted by angry demonstrators.’

Rule of law

Frisian daily paper Leeuwarder Courant described the prime minister’s comments as a slap in the face for Dokkum mayor Marga Waanders  who had been in discussion with the anti-Piet camp for several weeks to enable them to hold their protest without disturbing the children waiting to see Sinterklaas.

‘There is something we have to be more careful with than the colour of Zwarte Piet and that something is the rule of law,’ the paper said in an editorial.

In the meantime, a crowdfunding campaign set up to raise money to pay any fines has already brought in €30,000, the Telegraaf said. In addition, a sympathetic lawyer has already come forward to defend them free of charge, the paper said.

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