Community service for 34 pro-Piet activists who blocked motorway

Campaigners who blocked the A7 motorway with cars to stop anti-Zwarte Piet demonstrators reaching last year’s Sinterklaas procession in Friesland, have been sentenced to community service of between 80 and 240 hours and suspended jail terms of one month. In total, 34 people were charged and found guilty of blocking the motorway and stopping a legal demonstration. Jenny Douwes, who originally called for the demonstration on Facebook and has become a de facto figurehead for the protestors, was also found guilty of incitement. She received the longest sentence of 240 hours of community service plus a one month suspended jail term. The court ruled that the pro-Piet activists knew exactly what they were doing when they created a dangerous traffic situation. Nor could the blockade be seen as a demonstration, the court said. 'Limits to the right to demonstrate can only be imposed if there are concrete threats to public order,' the court said. 'The fear this may happen is not enough. It was not up to the 'blockade Frisians' to decide if Kick Out Zwarte Piet had the right to demonstrate.' Demonstrations The Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) parade has been the focus of demonstrations in recent years against his companion Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete, who is perceived in some quarters as a racist caricature. This year the Kick Out Zwarte Piet campaign has said it will not demonstrate in Zaandijk, where the three weeks of Sinterklaas festivities are due to kick off on November 17. Instead, the organisation has applied for licences to hold demonstrations at 18 other locations including Dokkum, which it was unable to reach last year because of the motorway blockade. Update Friday evening: The 34 pro-Piet activists are to appeal against their sentences and have opened a crowd-funding initiative to pay their legal costs. An earlier crowd-funding campaign raised €43,000 but that has since been spent, the activists say.  More >

More fear terror attack in NL

More people in the Netherlands are concerned that a major terrorist attack will take place on Dutch soil, according to the latest poll by the counter-terrorism unit NCTV. Some 67% are now worried that an attack may happen, compared with 55% six months ago, the survey of some 800 people showed. People are also more worried about the safety of friends and family. Four in 10 are now concerned about the security of their loved ones, compared with three in 10 in the previous survey. Nevertheless, six in 10 people said the arrest of seven men who were said to be preparing a major terrorist attack in September has not an an impact on them. Three in 10 people said they now felt safer and just one in 10 less safe. There have only been a few, minor terror-related incidents in the Netherlands. In the most recent case, two American tourists were attacked by a 19-year-old Afghan national living in Germany at Amsterdam's central station. In August, a 26-year-old man was arrested at The Hague’s main railway station after placing a video on Facebook in which he appears to say he is planning to attack the parliamentary complex or on Geert Wilders.  More >

Private security guards get firework duty

Private security guards will help the police keep watch on confiscated fireworks until they can be picked up by specialised transport companies, broadcaster NOS said on Wednesday. The move will boost the safety of both police officers and the public, police union ACP has told the broadcaster. The change means police who find illegal fireworks will first send a photo to a specialist. The specialist will decide if the explosives can be moved by the police or if they should be picked up by trained transport companies. If specialist transporters are brought in, private security guards will take over from the police until the haul is picked up, saving considerable police time. Every year tonnes of illegal fireworks confiscated by police in the run-up to the national firework frenzy on December 31.  More >

UN experts accuse social workers of racism

United Nations racism experts have accused Dutch social workers of racism after seven children of African descent were forcibly removed from their parents. Police took the children, including a breastfeeding baby, into care in May. However, this was done 'without duly considering their best interests, preserving the family structure or first providing instructions on how to combat problems in the home,' the UN experts, who work on behalf of the Human Rights Council, said. The UN claims research shows that negative stereotypes about parents of African descent drive heightened reporting of maltreatment and greater involvement with state agencies for children of African descent in the Netherlands. The decision to remove the children from the home was taken without any judicial oversight. The children have not been able to see their parents since then. 'This family separation has caused immense trauma and psychological damage and we are deeply troubled about the impact on the children’s physical and mental wellbeing,' the experts are quoted as saying. 'We have raised our concerns with the government of the Netherlands, and called on them to investigate this case, reunite the family and guarantee equal treatment before the law,' the experts said. The Dutch government, the UN said, has denied racial discrimination or impropriety and said claims of racial bias should be reported to the police and local anti-discrimination services.  More >

Clinics open door to gay couple parenthood

Gay men who want to become fathers will no longer have to travel abroad to use IVF services via a surrogate mother, television current affairs show De Monitor said on Tuesday. At least two IVF clinics are to start offering services to gay couples next year, the programme said. One in Leiderdorp will help fertilising a surrogate mother's own eggs while a second, in Elsendorp, will allow couples to provide an egg from a sister or other family member for a better genetic match. A fertility centre in Zwolle and the VU teaching hospital in Amsterdam are also considering offering IVF treatment to gay couples with a surrogate. The VU is the only Dutch hospital where heterosexual couples can try for a test-tube baby via a surrogate. 'This is a major step forward. This news means gay couples can become parents and gives surrogates the support of gynaecologists,' said Luc Nibbeling, of the foundation Meer dan Gewenst, which supports gay parents. Every year, several dozen gay couples approach doctors about becoming parents, gynaecologist Annemiek Nap told the programme.  More >