National ombudsman Reinier van Zutphen has openly criticised limitations to protesting in the Netherlands. Van Zutphen’s remarks were based in part on the national arrival of Sinterklaas in the Frisian city of Dokkum last year.
In an interview with de Volkskrant, the Leeuwarder Courant reports that Van Zutphen says the right to protest is being threatened. The ombudsman goes into greater detail about his concerns in a report titled “Demonstration, a divisive fundamental right?”
Municipalities and police officers are placing more limitations on protestors, Van Zutphen says. The right to protest must be always come first, even when it comes to “divisive” topics like Zwarte Piet.
Buses carrying protestors who oppose the caricature of Zwarte Piet were physically blocked on the highway and prevented from entering Dokkum last year during the national arrival of Sinterklaas.
Van Zutphen says that Marga Waanders, mayor of Dokkum, made sufficient preparations for the arrival of the protestors in the city, including setting aside space for them to demonstrate. “But it went wrong when the protestors were stopped on the highway. The mayor did her best. It’s a shame that people were prevented from expressing their opinions at the arrival event.”