New Year festivities marred by racist illumination
Rotterdam police are searching for unknown perpetrators who displayed offensive, racially charged messages on the Erasmus Bridge in the center of the city amid New Year's festivities.
The offensive display appeared just after the turn of the new year early on Sunday, amid celebrations centered around the bridge. Although the planned fireworks had been canceled due to high winds in the area, a large number of revelers were still present at the site to ‘enjoy’ the messages, while the whole event was also broadcast live on RTL 4.
The offensive messages included the notorious Fourteen Words by the late US white supremacist and convicted domestic terrorist David Lane, widely used by assorted neo-Nazis and white supremacists worldwide, as well as the slogan ‘White Lives Matter.'
Other messages were in Dutch and appeared to be more specific. The display wished the revelers ‘Happy White 2023,’ using the word "blank," considered to be discriminatory and antiquated, and effectively meaning lack of skin color. Another message read ‘Zwarte Piet did nothing wrong.’ It apparently referred to the recent cancel-culture campaign against a local traditional Christmas character and St. Nicolas sidekick, Black Pete, deemed by the critics to be highly offensive blackface display.
The incident has been strongly condemned by the authorities, with Rotterdam’s deputy mayor Ronald Buijt telling broadcaster RTL that the slogans were "rude and polarizing" whereas the city itself was a place "where everyone is equal."
Local police believe the racially charged messages were displayed on the bridge by a group of perpetrators operating from a boat. "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," a police spokesperson told RTL.
The organizers of the bridge illumination and fireworks display have strongly denied any involvement, insisting they were not aware of the incident until the following morning. "We had seen texts like ‘happy New Year’ appearing on the bridge in the evening, so we did not pay too much attention to them," a spokesman told the AD newspaper.