It's Friday night, the eight of November. The entire board of Rotterdam BIJ1 is in attendance at the gathering of Kick Out Zwarte Piet (KOZP) in The Hague as suddenly the noise of fireworks, yelling and broken glass sounds. The building was under attack by dozens of aggressive supporters of Black Pete.
Thanks to a quick response from both the police and some of the people in attendance, the damage remained fairly limited with 'only' some broken windows, attempted arson and a completely ruined car. It could have been much, much worse. Board member Sandra Salome opens up about that night:
"Last year, I wrote this after the protests against black Pete:
After writing this piece, I never wanted to write about black Pete again. I'd said all I wanted and needed to say. Explaining why black Pete is racist? I'm tired of it and so I won't. Just look at the people supporting this racist caricature and you'll know everything you need to know.
But today is Saturday, the 9th of November. The day after the gathering I attended. Like the others in attendance, I'm physically okay but walk around with the realization of how much worse this could have been. It made for sleepless nights and a head full of thoughts. Surprised, however, I'm certainly not. This had been coming for a while.
This violence has been caused by the people and the media who have been framing the peaceful anti-racism protesters as violent destroyers of tradition. Violence has never been used from our side, but it just works better when trying to ignore our message.
This violence has also been caused by the people who still walk around, saying things like: "I don't approve of what happened, but.." But? But what? How are you ever going to justify this? What is a good reason to violently attack a group of people holding a meeting? This is unacceptable and that is that.
The media also played a huge part in creating this environment. Even now, they use terms such as 'disturb' and 'protesters', a 'confrontation between opposers and supporters', all to not call it what it is.
So let's call this what it was: a terrorist attack. These were no 'protesters', these people are violent, racist scum. Speak up and take your responsibility for once. Why does a person like John van Zweden get air-time on television to complain about losing his tradition, but is no one asking questions about him literally posting the address of the gathering and asking to use violence towards us on Twitter?
Just like the fact that The Hague police force shared the location as well while we were still figuring out how to escape the city can be labeled 'remarkable' at the very least. We know the police don't care about our safety, but this is just ridiculous.
The violence is also caused by current politics. All these politicians who refuse to speak up about this issue. This extremism is what happens when an obvious issue is neglected and ignored for too long, making racist scum like these people feel they are free to do as they please. Protesters who have been able to let their voices be heard have been attacked and had to endure the most racist abuse.
Despite all of that, most of Dutch politics continued to look away and never spoke out about our right to protest. Or they believe we have the right, just not on the actual day the celebrations are happening.
Nothing seems to have changed about that, looking at a tweet Jesse Klaver sent:
But 'we' are a very racist country where people who aren't white are confronted with institutional racism every single day. That's the whole reason this movement exists in the first place. As long as politicians, or anyone for that fact, refuse to say that out loud, nothing is going to change.
The people that use violence to keep black Pete just use it as a symbol for their own supremacy. Basically telling everyone that this is their country and that we don't get a say. These aren't people who protect traditions, these are white supremacists. It's not about black Pete, it's flat out racism. Leaving behind a proven racist caricature is such a small step, but one they aren't even willing to take.
During my sleepless night after the attack, the thought occurred to never protest again. Not because I don't believe in it, not because it isn't necessary, but because I'm terrified. Yet, I've decided against this. I will still go, even if it is with shaking legs and sweat on my forehead. Because the alternative is even worse: letting racists win. So next week, I'll be in The Hague again, joining the protest. Together with all the people who believe in this cause, making a statement against racism.