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Dutch protesters call for removal of colonial statue

June 20, 2020

Police in the Netherlands have broken up rival protests at the statue of a Dutch East India Company officer. Colonial-era figures have become focal points of anti-racism protests around Europe in recent weeks.

Police rope off a statue of a Dutch colonial figure in Hoorn
Image: picture-alliance/ANP/R. Utrecht

Some 500 protesters on Friday gathered in the town of Hoorn, north of Amsterdam, to call for the removal of a statue of 17th century colonial-era Dutch officer Jan Pieterszoon Coen.

There was also a smaller group of counterprotests. When demonstrators refused to disperse, police broke up the crowds with shields and batons, arresting five people. No injuries or damages were reported.

Read more: What should be done with controversial monuments?

Coen, an officer in the Dutch East India trading company, led a conquest of the Banda islands in 1621, in modern-day Indonesia. Only 1,000 of the 15,000 local inhabitants were believed to have survived.

''Everyone here today gives a voice to the victims. A mass murderer does not deserve a statue,'' said Romy Rondeltap, one of the protest organizers.

In the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in the US that has fueled the Black Lives Matter movement around the globe, the Netherlands in recent weeks has seen protests across the country against police violence and racism, including two large gatherings in the capital, Amsterdam. These protests have been driven by concerns over racism on the part of police and tax authorities, and discrimination in schools, workplaces and the housing market. 

Statues of colonial-era Europeans have become focal points of many anti-racism protests on the continent, including in the UK and Belgium. Last week, a statue of Dutch colonial mariner Piet Hein was smeared with the word "killer."

Read moreWill cities in Belgium take down statues of Leopold II?

While many people view Coen and other colonial-era figures as brutal oppressors, they have also drawn support from those who associate them with Dutch history and identity.

The real history of Leopold II

tg/dr (AP, Reuters)