By Sarra Riahi, RPM volunteer project Voice
Maastricht – On November 15th, the annual Kick Out Zwarte Piet demonstration was supposed to take place at the Vrijthof. Yet, demonstrators were led, for security matters, to the Mosae Forum in a last-minute move. It is still unclear whether the demonstration was able to take place. One might wonder, why were demonstrators displaced in the first place?
It appeared that many counter-protesters were present on the Vrijthof before the start of the demonstration. It is, with the event, crystal clear that Black Piet has staunch defenders, who, in the name of tradition, do not want to reconsider a highly controversial aspect of their celebration. The message and its goal made their way: to scare anyone who dares to call out the racist dimension of the Zwarte Piet character and claim it shall cease.
Zwarte Piet is sustaining, over the years, a glorification of the dehumanization of a part of the population. It continuously maintains that some lives are mockable, caricaturable, wearable as a disguise. When the history of colonialism is yearly revered, when one cannot avoid seeing black dolls hanging in bookshops, it is urgent to call out the Dutch authorities and government.
In a democratic state, the right to protest is a fundamental one. Hence, Kick Out Zwarte Piet must be able to exercise such a right to make clear that the annual celebration as it stands is in contradiction with the Dutch claim to tolerance and justice. When, in addition to the failure to recognize how damaging the celebration of Zwarte Piet is, people’s right to protest is not protected, there is a case for huge concerns.
At Refugee Project Maastricht, we aim at creating a safe place for discussion, cultural and mutual exchanges where all, incomers and locals, can gather and feel that they belong. We cannot but stand in support of all the people who, on top of being marginalized yearly by the Zwarte Piet tradition, were affected by what happened on November 15th.