Netherlands – Racist messages projected on Erasmus Bridge during Rotterdam New Year’s fest

Rotterdam – A series of implicitly racist and discriminatory messages was projected in large letters on the side of the Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam just after the turn of the new year early Sunday morning. The bridge was the center of the planned national fireworks show and televised celebration at the end of 2022 and start of 2023. The party went ahead even though the fireworks were cancelled due to high winds.

Police are investigating how the disparaging messages were projected on the bridge, which could also be seen during the televised broadcast on RTL 4, a spokesperson told RTL Nieuws. “As we now estimate, the images were projected from a boat. The images move quite a bit. It is rather sloppy. We don’t think this was done by the organization that normally handles the lighting of the bridge. But of course we are investigating that also.”

The messages which appeared on the bridge included, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.” The statement is often referenced as “14 Words,” and was popularized by comments made by neo-Nazi David Lane. He died in prison in the U.S. after convictions related to the murder of Jewish radio host Alan Berg, and conspiracy and racketeering charges linked to the white supremacist organization he helped create.

Other statements projected on the bridge included, “Vrolijk Blank 2023 – Happy White 2023,” and “Zwarte Piet deed niets verkeerd,” which translates to “Zwarte Piet did nothing wrong.” The Dutch word “Blank” is often considered by some to be antiquated and discriminatory as it can be used to imply superiority due to an absence of color rather than “white.” The message mentioning Zwarte Piet refers to the traditional winter holiday character often portrayed by white actors in blackface makeup, though support for the tradition has halved in recent years.

Alderman Ronald Buijt, who is also the deputy mayor of the city, said to RTL Nieuws, “I found the slogans projected on the bridge tonight to be rude and polarizing. These guys don’t deserve attention even for a second. Rotterdam is one city, a city where everyone is equal.”

Additionally, the slogan, “White Lives Matter,” was also projected on the bridge. The phrase was first heavily promoted in the United States by the Aryan Renaissance Society, a white supremacist group in Texas, and the Ku Klux Klan. “‘White Lives Matter’ is a white supremacist phrase that originated in early 2015 as a racist response to the Black Lives Matter movement, which arose to protest against police brutality against African-Americans and garnered considerable publicity in 2014 for protests in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting death of Michael Brown at the hands of a Ferguson police officer,” wrote the Anti-Defamation League. Based in New York, the organization has researched racism and discrimination for 110 years.

The messages could clearly be seen in videos and images circulating on social media, in addition to the RTL 4 broadcast. The text was most legible to those standing on the quay, RTL Nieuws reported.

“We were very shocked,” said one eyewitness to the broadcaster. “This is very cowardly and not okay. I think that something like this should not be possible in our society, especially not in Rotterdam.”

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