Jenny Douwes, the main organiser behind the A7 blockade in Friesland who was recently sentenced to 240 hours of community service, has formally filed a complaint against the Dutch State to the Council of Europe for violating Frisian’s rights as a national minority.
Omrop Fryslân reports that Douwes is trying to make the case that the Dutch State is violating the rights of Frisians as a national minority to protest their traditions. In this case, the tradition Douwes alleges is being protected is Friesland’s right to continue depicting Zwarte Piet in blackface.
Douwes was sentenced to 240 hours of community service for coordinating a blockade on the motorway during Sinterklaas’ national arrival in Dokkum and preventing anti-Zwarte Piet protestors from exercising their constitutional right to protest.
A crowdfunding campaign to cover legal fees involved in an eventual appeal of their sentences officially ended on Sunday and ultimately raised more than 200,000 euros. The convicted blockade participants have until Friday the 23rd of November to formally appeal, but the costs of an appeal are expected to be far lower than the amount of money raised.
During the local arrival festivities for Sinterklaas across the country over the weekend, pro-Zwarte Piet demonstrators, many of whom were hooligans from regional football clubs, behaved aggressively toward the anti-Zwarte Piet protestors.
In Groningen, several dozen supporters of local football clubs coordinated efforts to confront the anti-Zwarte Piet protestors at the Emmasingel. The pro-Zwarte Piet group threw eggs and attempted to grab the signs away from the anti-Piet group, and the police intervened in several cases.
In Leeuwarden, anti-Piet demonstrators were given bananas, a racist symbol gesture linked to comparing black people to monkeys. The hooligan group attempted to rush the anti-Piet group, but police responded quickly with their nightsticks drawn to hold back the pro-Piet group.
In Dokkum, the Frisian town which hosted the national arrival last year, only a handful of protestors ultimately showed up. In Drenthe, the biggest arrival events in Meppel and Emmen did not have any reported altercations.
A crowdfunding campaign for members of Kick Out Zwarte Piet started on Saturday has already raised 10,000 euros for legal aid and support for anti-Zwarte Piet protestors who were physically and verbally abused by counter demonstrators across the country.
The violence at the local arrivals this year has begun dividing members of the national government coalition. ChristenUnie leader Gert-Jan Segers wrote a Facebook post calling for the Netherlands to embrace the soot-streaked depiction of Zwarte Piet, but VVD faction leader Klaas Dijkhoff wrote a post calling for demonstrations to be banned by what he described as “extremists on both sides” at the Sinterklaas arrival events. Prime Minister Mark Rutte acknowledged that hooligans in some cities came prepared to fight, but implied that protesting either for or against the blackface depiction of Zwarte Piet during the arrival festivities was inappropriate. “You can have this debate on talk shows, but it should not happen where children are around.”
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