Dutch healthcare workers are outraged by the pictures showing some 5,000 people packed together in the central market square of Amsterdam, an area known as the Dam, in honor of the Black Lives Matter movement. The protest took place only two days after lockdown regulations were relaxed but politicians urged social distancing for everyone. It is quite clear from the many pictures of the demonstration that most of the attendants were unable to adhere to social distancing because of the great number of people.
The massive Amsterdam protest was prompted by the death of George Floyd in the US, the African-American man who died in Minneapolis last week after a police officer held his knee on his neck for a long time.
Although many on the Dam wore face masks, it is clear that respecting social distancing guidelines was practically impossible.
Virologist Ab Osterhaus reacted with anger: ‘Thousands of people together like this, it’s like being in a football stadium, and we know what the consequences can be. It may help to be outside and people wear face masks, but this needs to be monitored closely. ‘
Marion Koopmans, virologist at the Erasmus hospital in Rotterdam and the Dutch advisor to the WHO outlined: ‘With such a large group, you assume that people with an infection have been among them, although of course I hope that people with (mild) complaints really stay at home.’
Furthermore, she stated, such a large demonstration ‘cannot really be explained.’
‘So in my opinion you should also ensure that the rules are (or can be) followed. But it also applies to everyone individually: avoid crowds, which has now been ignored by many people. I understand the outrage at the situation in the US, but this is really risky.’
Amsterdam Mayor reacts
The mayor of Amsterdam, Ms Femke Halsema also participated. When she saw the uproar afterwards by polticians and social media influencers as to the size of the crowd, she commented being surprised by the huge number of protesters herself. During an interview afterwards she claimed that the organizers had assured her it would only be 250 to 350 people.
“There was no expectation that it would grow to these proportions,” Ms Halsema stated. All of a sudden, in the space of one hour, the Dam was filled to the brim.