AMSTERDAM'S RESISTANCE TO ITS COLONIAL PAST
In Amsterdam, Netherlands, demonstrations with thousands of people broke out in June in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The protests were in solidarity with George Floyd, whose death was a result of police brutality last May.
BY INGRID DE GROOT
September 13, 2020, 12:00 CET | Updated on October 12, 2020, 02:30 CET
Photo Credits: Ingrid de Groot
Around ten thousand people demonstrated in the Nelson Mandelapark in Amsterdam on June 10, supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. The week before, on June 1, 2020, about five thousand people demonstrated on Dam Square in Amsterdam. There were also protests in Den Bosch, Middelburg, Rotterdam, and Groningen in June.
These were not the first Black Lives Matter protests in Amsterdam. The Netherlands’ colonial past has long been underexposed with regard to what influence it still has today.
“Black Lives Matter” was displayed on shirts and signs at the protest on the Dam Square, Amsterdam, in 2016. About 150 people demonstrated for the Black Lives Matter movement following the shooting of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in the US.
Both were killed by police shooting upon their arrest. Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man in Baton Rouge, was arrested because the police were responding to a report that a man in a red shirt was selling CDs and that he had used a gun to threaten a man outside a convenience store. Later on it became clear that he wasn’t the man they were searching for.
Philando Castile, a 32-year-old black man, was shot at a traffic stop in Minnesota. He was driving his partner, Diamond Reynolds, and her four-year-old daughter when he was pulled over by the police. After being asked for his license and registration, Castile told the policeman that he had a firearm that he was licensed to carry. The policeman replied that he did not have to reach for it. Philando didn’t have time to answer when he reached for it. The policeman did not wait for his answer and shot him at close range.
During that demonstration in Amsterdam in 2016, demonstrators also drew attention to the dubious death of Mitch Henriquez, a 42-year-old Aruban man in the Hague. He was arrested at a music festival in the Zuiderpark in the Hague on June 27, 2015, and died one day later from mistreatment. Following his death, there was a lot of commotion surrounding the circumstances and cause of death.
The National Monument in Oosterpark (Amsterdam) acknowledges the Netherlands’ history of slavery. Every year on July 1, a commemoration reminds the Netherlands of its colonial history and its major role in the Atlantic slave trade. Suriname, for example, is one of the countries from which the Netherlands stole people and later transported them worldwide or enslaved them and forced them to work on plantations in the colonies.
Only in 1863 did the Netherlands abolish slavery. The commemoration refers to that date.
However, there is an activist group in the Netherlands calling itself “1873.” With their name, they highlight to the fact that the official abolition of slavery in 1863 was not actually implemented by the Dutch until ten years later. In other words, Dutch slaves were liberated in 1873. Even after that official liberation date, discrimination, and especially racism towards people with dark skin colour, prevailed, and it continues today.
Today, even though the roar of the protestors has subsided, the resistance continues in quieter forms. Every day there is someone with a sign on the Dam Square with the text: “As long as systemic racism exists someone will stand here.”
This photodocumentary is supported by the Stars4Media pilot project.