The slavery monument in Amsterdam Oosterpark

The slavery monument in Amsterdam Oosterpark

Dutch organizations reject parliament chair at Keti Koti/Emancipation Day commemoration in Amsterdam

AMSTERDAM -- A group of 35 grassroots organisations and 150 individuals in the Netherlands have sent an urgent letter to Second Chamber, the Municipality of Amsterdam and NiNsee, urging them to have someone else than Speaker of the Second Chamber Martin Bosma attend the Keti Koti/Emancipation Day commemoration in Amsterdam on July 1. 

To have Martin Bosma lay a wreath on at the Keti Koti commemoration is a slap in the face to all for whom this day holds intense significance. [He] is known for his racist ideology and his offensive remarks towards Afro-Caribbean Dutch people. We condemn this violation of July 1, 2024, which marks the conclusion of the year commemorating the abolition of slavery," the "Coalition for a Dignified July 1 Commemoration" wrote in a statement over the weekend. The coalition is represented by spokespersons well-known psychiatrist Glenn Helberg and Marisa Monsanto, chairlady of the Foundation Theater for Keti Koti.

Commemorating the abolition of slavery on July 1st has become almost standard practice in the Netherlands over the past years, especially since the apologies by King Willem Alexander last year. Thousands of people gather annually at the wreath laying ceremony at the slavery memorial in Oosterpark in Amsterdam; it moved to the larger Museumplein last year as the event had grown beyond the crowds that Oosterpark could handle.

But it was the announcement that Bosma would be attending, that sent emotions soaring.

"July 1 is a significant, almost sacred day for Afro-Caribbean and Indigenous-Caribbean Dutch people. We reflect on the history of who we are, from the injustice done to our ancestors to the injustice that still exists in today's society. Asking our community to tolerate Bosma's presence there, crosses a line. It is not possible to separate the function from the person Bosma, with his racist beliefs," the coalition wrote.

The coalition explained that Bosma has for 20 years been promoting an explicitly racist ideology based on white supremacy.

It listed:

He makes derogatory and racist remarks about Afro-Caribbean Dutch people. He denies the ongoing impact of the slavery past on contemporary society in the form of discrimination and exclusion. He has spread racist "replacement" theories, referred to the commemorative year as "slavery whining," and spoken of "anti-white racism" and "propaganda and indoctrination" concerning the slavery past. He argued against the rehabilitation of the resistance hero Tula, calling Tula a "racist murderer." His party, PVV, also advocates for the retraction of the apologies for the slavery past. And he is closely involved with a new apartheid movement in South Africa, which contradicts the country's pride in its support for freedom fighter Nelson Mandela."

The coalition warned against "intolerant voices that are increasingly gaining ground" and hinted that statements based on white superiority and promoting division have led to significant gains for the radical right. "This shift in the political climate is troubling. While—especially in this commemorative year—there is a growing understanding of the systemic legacy of slavery in discrimination and exclusion, xenophobia is being normalized in national governance and everyday discourse."

The group said that the issue is political, hence their political stance. "Slavery was a political system of laws and policies. Its consequences are still felt today. The wreath-laying by Speaker Bosma, with his reputation for racism, on the day commemorating the suffering caused by this political system, signifies a further normalization of racist beliefs and expressions in society. This act thus becomes a political statement that ridicules the constitutional human right of non-discrimination."

It said that including dignitaries in the ceremony has contributed to recognition and connection of the shared past and future. "It has helped shape the country we aspire to be together. [But] A wreath-laying by Bosma dishonors the intrinsic meaning of this moment. It strips away any authenticity from the tribute. With a wreath-laying by Martin Bosma, July 1 is violated."

It said that the issue is also a matter of respect for the Afro-/Indigenous Caribbean community in the Netherlands, in the Kingdom, and in Suriname, for the 250 years since slavery ended, as well as for the democratic values of the constitutional state, for Article 1 of the Constitution, and for the equality and safety of all citizens.

"Do not allow the healing process of history, symbolized by this commemorative year, to be violated. Send a replacement; someone who respects this important commemoration. Send the Deputy Speaker of the Chamber instead. Send someone who means well."

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