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The Haque, June 27, 2011

The flag, the weapon

Carrying a flag can be a symbol for many things. Not being allowed to carry it might even leave a deeper mark. Change is good. But something is definitely changing towards the wrong direction in this country.

On Monday 27 of June a group of teachers and art students gathered at the Royal Academy in The Hague. Carrying the “flags of compassion” we joined the demonstration “Mars der Beschaving”, an action organized to express disagreement with the disproportionate plans of the Dutch cabinet to cut down the budgets for the arts and culture (one of the many cuts this government has introduced).

To our surprise we weren’t aloud to join the protest with the flags because the flagpoles were considered ‘weapons’. A few hours later, when wanting to continue demonstrating in front of the government building, we were again stopped by a wall of police officers who violently attacked those who tried to walk down the street. Around 13 people were brutally arrested that day, students, teachers, and artists.

Is this the new face of Holland? Police on horseback, officers pulling people by their hair? We stayed calm until the end, though with a sense of frustration, and were slowly pushed away, until we were dispersed.

If this is the new face of the country I seriously think we are in danger. Hopefully next time all sectors will unite. We must become conscious. Compassion and empathy should be the fundamentals in enabling us to achieve this change. A flag is an instrument, a tool, and the action of carrying it can help create unity.

Things are changing. We need to work together if we want to decide in which direction they are going to go. We not only have the right to, but also the responsibility.

Aimee Zito Lemo


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