“Here in the Netherlands, too, we have seen racism on the part of the police – for instance Mitch Henriquez’s death in The Hague and ethnic profiling. But the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration has recently been guilty of it too,” says Wouter Sterrenburg, EM’s photographer at the scene.
Nia Nikoladze, Melisa Esroy and several other members of the Erasmus School of Colour attended the protests as well. “This feels like a tipping point,” says Nia. “When I see how the police in America hit back, I get tears in my eyes. And George Floyd is not the only one. There are hundreds of cases like his. We wanted to show our solidarity with the people taking to the streets in America, but we also wanted to show that these things happen in the Netherlands as well.”
Wouter says that the protesters’ anger was not directed at the police officers who attended the rally. “People were taking selfies with the cops.” The photographer says the mood was ‘peaceful but serious’. Nia says the atmosphere was ‘nice, albeit with an angry undertone, obviously’. The uniformed police Nia saw only sprang into action to provide first aid when a person became unwell.
Melisa Ersoy of the Erasmus School of Colour raises a fist, as do other protesters.
Thousands of people took part in the protests on Dam Square, meaning social distancing rules were hard to comply with at some points.
This protester is wearing a face mask saying ‘I can’t breathe’, a reference to George Floyd’s last words.
Two hours worth of speeches were given on the stage. One of the speakers was a transsexual man who told the crowd about an incident involving the police in Amsterdam’s Vondel Park, where police officers commented on the colour of his skin.
The protesters came in for a great deal of criticism in the media and on social media because they didn’t always keep a five-foot distance from others. “No one had expected that many people to turn up. I thought that about a hundred people would show up,” says Nia. “There were cross marks on the ground to help people observe the five-foot rule, but it was impossible to comply with the rules all the time. The great majority of people were wearing face masks, though.”
“At some point we’ll have to learn how to have protest marches while observing social distancing rules, and no doubt we’ll get it wrong sometimes. But it’s important that we keep protesting racism, and that we’re able to fight for minority rights.” In order to minimise the risk of spreading the coronavirus, the Erasmus School of Colour students have agreed to minimise their social contacts to the best of their ability in the next two weeks.