Dutch deface statues of ‘dubious character’ as protests spread
Following toppling of statues representing racist or colonial figures in the US and Europe, two statues in Rotterdam were vandalised
The Hague — Dutch protesters,, on Friday, damaged the statues of a colonialist naval commander linked to the slave trade, and of a murdered far-right politician, in the latest incidents targeting statues in Europe and the US.
The statue of Piet Hein — a 17th-century admiral linked to the Dutch West India Trading Company, who is regarded as one of the Netherlands’ greatest naval heroes — was sprayed with the words “killer” and “thief” overnight in Rotterdam.
Red hands were also daubed on an art centre in the port city, which was named after Hein’s fleet captain, Witte de With.
Black tape was wrapped around part of a statue in Rotterdam of Pim Fortuyn, the controversial right-wing politician assassinated in 2002, and it was daubed with slogans including “No racism”.
Activists from a group calling itself “Heroes of Never” claimed responsibility for defacing the “statues of dubious character”.
They said on their Instagram account that they were inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We use these actions to criticise the glorification of Dutch colonialism and the martyrdom of Pim Fortuyn,” they said.
Dutch education, science and culture minister Ingrid van Engelshoven said she disapproved of the group’s actions. “Although it is good to launch a discussion on institutional racism and discrimination, it does not help if people tamper with statues of controversial historical figures,” she said.
The flamboyant Fortuyn, known for his far-right, anti-Islam and anti-immigrant stance, was gunned down in a parking lot in 2002 by an animal activist, an act that shattered the liberal Netherlands’ image of itself as a unified and secure society.
Hein became a popular hero in the Netherlands after capturing a major Spanish treasure fleet in the Caribbean during the Eighty Years’ War of independence against Spain.
The Witte de With Centre later announced that it would be renamed.
The Dutch incidents mirror similar attacks on colonial symbols in Britain, Belgium, Portugal and the US that have occurred following the death of George Floyd, an African-American man asphyxiated by a white police officer in Minneapolis.