Green Party mayor Femke Halsema, who was photographed at a protest without a mask, has been accused of “spitting on” residents over her handling of the mass demonstration.
A protest march in Amsterdam took place on Monday, with residents coming out in sympathy with Black Lives Matter protests in the United States and organisers saying they also wanted to bring attention to racism in Europe, as well.
Among the thousands who turned out was the hard-left Green Party mayor of Amsterdam Femke Halsema, who mingled with the tightly-pressed crowds and was photographed without a mask covering her face.
Dutch government coronavirus lockdown rules make a 1.5 metre spacing between pedestrians in public a legal requirement, but only strictly require masks be worn while on public transport — a demand backed up by police action and fines.
— Forum voor Democratie (@fvdemocratie) June 1, 2020
The appearance of the mayor, and the fact the protest was able to take place at such a large scale at all while the country is otherwise being strictly controlled over coronavirus, has led to heavy criticism, reports Het Parool. All partner parties of the nation’s centre-right coalition government have condemned the event, remarking the images of so many Dutch residents out and protesting in public would undermine public faith in the coronavirus restrictions.
Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom — a noted anti-mass migration campaigner who lives under constant police supervision because of his outspoken criticism of Islamism — noted Tuesday that “Halsema must go!” and told Ongehoord Nederland that it was unacceptable for the mayor of a great city to behave like a street activist and that she had shown no respect for the rules the rest of the Dutch people are expected to live by.
Dutch journalist at the state NOS broadcaster Joris Van Poppel noted on Tuesday that ultimately, the mayor’s future would be decided in two weeks’ time if there was a sudden spike in coronavirus infections traced back to the demonstration she allowed to go ahead.
Responding to criticism, Mayor Halsema said she only expected hundreds, not thousands, to turn up to the rally. To disperse it would have required police to deploy “with a hard hand”, and she was not willing to do that. Supporters of the mayor protested on Twitter that because many people at the demonstration wore face masks, outrage about the event was hypocritical.
The apparent hypocrisy of the mayor’s protest appearance has been underlined by prominent Amsterdam residents, who compare the mayor attending the protest unmasked this week with her blocking the annual Second World War commemorations that were due to take place on May 4th.
Rather than the typical annual commemorations of the Netherlands being liberated from Nazi occupation on May 4th-5th, which sees mass crowds laying flowers in the same city square as Monday’s demonstration, a small number of dignitaries including Mayor Halsema, the Dutch king, and a single survivor of the war laid flowers in an empty square instead.
Amsterdam theatre producer Albert Verlinde was cited by Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad as expressing that frustration when he said: “Ms Halsema personally intervened so there should be only one survivor on the [Amsterdam city square] to lay flowers and now she allows this, while hard-working entrepreneurs and well-meaning Dutch do their utmost to comply with the 1.5-metre rule… Halsema spits in our faces.”