After too many people were too close to each other during the anti-racism protest on Dam Square on Monday, the organization of the protest in Rotterdam wanted to do everything it could to keep demonstrators at a distance of 1.5 meters. That plan was unsuccessful. Crosses with sidewalk chalk on the Erasmus Bridge turned out to be insufficient to keep the crowd in check.
Just before 4.30 pm it still looks clear. Crosses with sidewalk chalk have been drawn on Willemsplein and crosses have also been placed on the entire Erasmus bridge. They are all 1.5 meters apart, in order to keep demonstrators sufficiently apart during the anti-racism protest.
The announcements from the organization sound across the bridge and are clear: "Think of social distancing" and "we want to let this protest go smoothly".
It is clear: the organization of the # BlackLivesMatter protest is all about preventing a situation like two days earlier on Dam Square in Amsterdam. Five thousand people attended the protest in the capital and the one and a half meter rule was not observed.
'Uncontrollable' crowds at anti-racism demonstration Rotterdam
Crowds grow during protest
In order to offer all demonstrators enough space, the mayor of Rotterdam Ahmed Aboutaleb had offered not to stand on Schouwburgplein, but on the entire Erasmus Bridge. If that were not enough, he would also allow the protest to continue as a kind of ribbon all the way to the Willemsbrug.
While the protest started at 5 p.m. and slogans like "I can't breathe" and "Black Lives Matter" blare over the Maas, the crowd is growing.
Some neatly connect to the Erasmus Bridge, the sidewalk of which is filled to half the length of the bridge with protesters. But a large part seems to want to be closer to the stage and choose a spot on the partition between the different directions of the bridge.
Rotterdam traffic then still simply drives over the connection with Rotterdam-Zuid, but when many people cross the road and even move more and more on the road, the municipality decides to close the Erasmus Bridge to traffic.
If the demonstrators also stand on the roadway of the Erasmus Bridge, it will be closed to traffic. (Photo: Pro Shots)
Situation resembles pre-corona era
Shortly afterwards, the organization of the protest again calls for real distance to be ensured. Protesters also speak to each other.
It does not have much effect. People keep coming from the south bank and the flow from the city center also continues. It is that many protesters wear mouth masks, but otherwise you imagine yourself in the pre-corona era.
At 5:45 pm, when the demonstration is halfway through, the organization warns participants of the protest for the last time. "Put your arms wide and make sure you don't touch anyone. We are being examined by the municipality with a magnifying glass, so please keep to the distance rules."
On the Erasmus Bridge, near the stage, protesters do not keep a distance of 1.5 meters. (Photo: Job van der Plicht)
Rotterdam triangle intervenes
If the protest prepares for a dance act on stage, it is enough for the Rotterdam triangle. He informs the organization that the demonstration cannot continue. Meanwhile, the police shout from a van with a megaphone that everyone should go home quietly, keeping a distance of 1.5 meters.
Where during the first part of the protest only police in normal uniform could be seen - which was the wish of Aboutaleb - now suddenly the mounted police and the Mobile Unit (ME) have also arrived. They don't have to take action yet.
The protest is actually closed at about 6 pm, half an hour before the intention was actually. The call from the police to quietly leave the Erasmus Bridge is received with a boo.
Restless in Rotterdam city center
Shortly afterwards, when it appears at metro station Leuvehaven, it seems that a demonstrator is being arrested, the atmosphere threatens to change. Cops are yelled at and cans and other objects fly towards police vans. The organized organizers have managed to calm the situation.
It is also restless in some places in the city center of Rotterdam. Groups of young people are walking through the city and the ME is present. The young people throw in windows and knock over fences, deck chairs and bicycles. Ultimately, the police arrest two people for insult and throwing fireworks.
See also: Rotterdam should stop anti-racism protest earlier because of enormous turnout