While people flew around each other because another new year had arrived, and fireworks exploded into the air, texts were projected on the Erasmusburg in Rotterdam. ‘Merry white 2023’, it said, in letters that slid across the pylon like a ticker. And: ‘White lives matter’. The American neo-Nazi David Lane was also quoted. He called for the future of white children to be secured.
Some of these slogans were also shown live on television. Images of the Erasmusburg were shown during the national countdown. There was supposed to be a fireworks show there, but it was canceled due to the strong wind. Deputy mayor Ronald Buijt called the projection of the texts on the bridge opposite RTL News “rude and polarizing”.
But is it also a criminal offense? It could possibly be sedition, says a spokesman for the Rotterdam police. The assessment of this lies with the Public Prosecution Service. The Public Prosecution Service says it is indeed investigating whether the texts are punishable, but could not yet say on Monday whether that is actually the case.
Boat or building
Finding out who projected the texts on the bridge is not easy. The police have called on Rotterdammers to share information about the texts. This revealed several possible locations for a projector or laser, says the spokesperson. The texts could have been projected onto the bridge from a boat, but projection from a building is also a possibility.
Mark Rouwenhorst, who organized the canceled National Fireworks that would take place on the bridge, got a bad feeling when he saw images of the texts on New Year’s Day. “I remembered that earlier that evening we had also seen texts in exactly the same place. But those were happy, sweet lyrics.” It was, among other things, ‘Happy New Year’, says Rouwenhorst. “I now think: that was someone who was practicing for the nasty lyrics later that night.” He also suspects to have seen where the texts may have come from: he thought he saw a light source in one of the residential towers on the Wilhelminapier on the Kop van Zuid.
Two towers seem to be the most suitable locations for a projector or laser: De Rotterdam or Montevideo. In addition to homes, the towers also house offices and catering establishments.
The projected texts are a topic of discussion this Monday on the pier in Rotterdam. Residents find it very disturbing that these kinds of sentences are shared, most people do not want their name in the newspaper. Widely shared opinion: the projector must have been somewhere outside, for example on a balcony.
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Marion van Dam was filming from her residential tower on the night of New Year’s Eve. She forwarded the videos to all kinds of acquaintances, and only found out a day later that racist texts had appeared on the bridge. When she zoomed in on the videos, she saw what was on them.
A video by Van Dam, which has not yet been released, may tell a bit more about the ideology behind the lyrics. A reference to the anti-Semitic website ‘Europa: The Last Battle’ was also projected on the bridge. That site talks about ‘the Jewish problem’ and Jewish people are called parasites. The website was promoted with the projection on the Erasmus Bridge. “Get active,” it said.
“I think it’s really bad,” says Van Dam. “Now the fireworks were canceled and only occasionally a shot of the bridge appeared on television. But imagine if it had just continued. Then you would have had these kinds of texts in the picture all the time.”