A Sunday walk down the street in Utrecht in the Netherlands doesn’t normally lead you to two police officers on horseback, but if you walked through the city centre on the 13th of January, this is exactly what you would have seen.
The Dutch ‘red vest movement’ held their first organised protest against discrimination, and the governments socio-economic policies in the Netherlands.
Around 100 ‘Rode Hesjes’ gathered at Neude in the city centre of Utrecht at 1pm, and marched through the city centre, stopping briefly at the Dom Square where the Utrecht Climate Neutral 2030 group spoke and performed a song. The crowd then marched on, continuing through the city, and finishing back at Neude, where organisers made some more speeches, before the group dispersed. The group was flanked by police throughout the march, with two police officers on horseback at the front of the march, and at the back. Police on foot also lined the march, and officers on pushbikes managed traffic, blocking lanes as the group passed by.
A World in Yellow
The red vests take their inspiration from the French yellow vest movement, or ‘Les Gilets Jaunes’, a group of tens of thousands who have taken to the streets of France since October 2018 to protest the governments socio-economic policies and demand more worker’s rights. Some of the Gilets Jaunes protests have resulted in violence, and have led to the closing of major attractions, including the Eiffel Tower. The scale of these protests has led to President Macron pledging to meet some of the Gilets Jaunes demands.
Les Gilets Jaunes success has inspired more than just the Netherlands, with many demonstrations taking place throughout Europe and the world, with each group attacking government policies.
Canadian yellow vest protesters have held rallies in eight cities, protesting Canada’s signing of the United Nations’ Global Compact for Migration. Protestors in Madrid have called for better pensions, while in Tel Aviv, yellow vests stood against the high cost of living in Israel. Yellow vest protestors clashed with police in Brussels, while Hungarian yellow vests protested overtime laws. Polish farmers donned yellow jackets during their protests, and in Berlin right-wing demonstrators donned yellow vests. Serbian opposition parliament members have protested petrol price increases with yellow vests, and in South Africa yellow vests have protested the quality of public services, and their Federation of Trade Unions spoke out about the success of the Gilets Jaunes movement.
Including All People
This French-inspired worldwide phenomenon made its way to the Netherlands in late November, and the ‘Gele Hesjes’ were born.
The ‘Rode Hesjes’ were started by left-wing activists that were originally part of the Gele Hesjes, or yellow vest movement. One of the Red Hesjes founders, Melko, is a member of the International Socialists, and said he and the other founders saw a need for a group different to the Gele Hesjes.
“The red vests are the answer to the Dutch yellow vests. We’re not an answer to the French yellow vests, we agree with them, we’re an answer to the Dutch yellow vests,” he said.
“The Dutch yellow vests are against refugees, they’re against immigrants. We agree with them on socio-economic points, but we want to include all people.”
The Red Hesjes also wanted to work with the police, something the Gele Hesjes haven’t done, and the police maintained a strong presence on foot, bicycle, motorbike, and horseback throughout the march.
“We wanted to register with the police, because then we can have a proper march, if you don’t work with the police you can’t have a real march,” Melko said.
The Red Hesjes hope this is just the first of many marches.
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