During the fourth day of the trial of 34 Frisians who blocked the A7 last year, the public prosecutors at the courthouse in Leeuwarden asserted that the blockade and preventing others from protesting were criminal activities.
Translation by Traci White
The Leeuwarder Courant reports that the Public Prosecutors have stressed that the case is about violating the freedom to protest, not a referendum on Zwarte Piet. The court case has been seen by many outside the courtroom as a proxy for divisions about the depiction of Zwarte Piet.
UPDATE: Friday, 2:48 p.m., 12 October
According to the Leeuwarder Courant crimes reporter Stef Altena, the Public Prosecutor is calling for a sentence of community service for most participants in the blockade. They are calling for 80 hours for two of the defendants, 150 for seven others and 120 hours for 23 members of the group. The prosecution says that Jenny Douwes should be sentenced to 240 hours of community service and a suspended jail sentence of three months. Another suspect, a 34-year-old man from Damwald, has already been recommended to serve 240 hours of community service and is also potentially facing a six month jail sentence, including three months suspended. What sentence the suspects eventually receive will be announced in the coming weeks.
Original story follows below:
The 34 accused men and women have attempted to argue that they were also exercising their right to free speech. Several defendants have expressed a sense of protectionism for the province of Friesland. The defendants have remained in high spirits all week: many of them arrived on a chartered party bus on Monday, singing Sinterklaas songs. Several of the defendants have expressed pride in their actions, which they insist were carried out in order to ensure that children in Dokkum were able to enjoy Sinterklaas’ arrival.
The police were able to read through the messages sent in a WhatsApp group among the blockade participants because one of the suspect’s telephones was taken into custody as evidence. Part of the conversation in the group referred to setting up a fund to pay for future legal damages related to their actions, which the Public Prosecution cited as an indication that the men and women were aware of the potential criminal nature of their actions.
On Thursday, Jerry Afriyie and Mitchell Esajas of the Kick Out Zwarte Piet organisation addressed the court. Several of the defendants left the courtroom before either man had a chance to speak. The group has asked for damage compensation amounting to 8,000 euros to cover the expense of the buses they rented to travel to Dokkum and replacing a windshield which was broken due a person flying forward and hitting it when the bus had to brake suddenly. One suggestion for part of the sentence for the dozens of blockade participants was a diversity workshop, including lessons about the history of Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet.
“These people are not heroes”
Both men described feeling fearful of the aggressive atmosphere on the day of the thwarted protest last year. Afriyie told the court, “I’m told that I should go back to my homeland on a daily basis, but the Netherlands is my homeland, too. You just have to be the right colour for someone to see you as an individual. Believe me, Friesland: these people are not heroes. Your children and my children deserve better than this.