AMSTERDAM – Thousands of people demonstrated Wednesday in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in a park in Amsterdam named for South African anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.
It was the latest in a series of protests in Dutch cities that have followed the death of George Floyd in Minnesota on May 25 and the protests across the United States and the world that followed.
“We are here to hold up a fist against the global pandemic of racism,” protester Mitchell Esajas told the crowd at the peaceful event, where all the participants took a knee and raised a fist near the end.
Floyd, a black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on his neck even after he pleaded for air while lying handcuffed on the ground. He was buried Tuesday in Houston after a funeral service at which speakers predicted he will be remembered forever for changing history.
Public debate about racism, discrimination and historical links to the slave trade have intensified in the Netherlands since Floyd’s death.
A Dutch human rights organization called on the government Wednesday to appoint a coordinator to help tackle what it called “structural discrimination” in the Netherlands.
Dutch debate about race has often been dominated by a children’s character known as Black Pete, who is frequently portrayed by white people in blackface makeup during St. Nicholas festivities in early December.
The first speaker to address the Amsterdam demonstration wore a hoodie emblazoned with the words “Black Pete is racism.”