Zwarte Piet, the Day After (English)

Demonstranten voor Zwarte Piet.

Demonstranten voor Zwarte Piet.

Maybe I’m naïve, but when I published my article yesterday I really had no idea the kind of response it would generate. There have been about 100 emails per hour and the current tweets and retweets seem endless. Apparently my story has touched a nerve.
But there are also comments and questions. That’s what I can go into here:

Did I witness beating and/or kicking 

No. In my blog I did not write that, but I want to emphasize it here once more.
The man in the picture was the most aggressive, but he was stopped by bystanders.

How many people were involved? It was not all the protesters?

I estimate that about 30 – 40 people were standing around. It was later in the day, and there were quite a few people left. According to estimates, there were a total of about 400 protesters.

In replies I regularly read that it makes me a hero because I ‘intervened.’

People, this is very much exaggerated. The only thing I did was a hand pull away and make a comment along the lines of “Give me a break.” I wrote it to indicate that it is difficult as a photojournalist to determine when to shoot or to choose to intervene. To think as a man or as a photojournalist. And for the record, I’m human first and photojournalist second.

Why should we believe you, are there more sources?

In the beginning I was standing with another person to talk to the woman. When the protesters gathered around, there was a fierce ‘discussion’ between them and the woman. Then came more protesters, and more people from the media .

Your story is not objective.

As a photojournalist I write for my blog occasionally. That’s usually about photography or journalism. In this case I wanted to write about the choice of whether or not to intervene if needed. But I noticed that I wanted to write an account of what happened. I doubted whether I should publish it. But what I write about what happened to that lady, is as it was. Fairly and objectively. I made it no more beautiful or less beautiful.
What you might call less objective is my comment that I think the less important reason for the demonstration for the preservation of Zwarte Piet than the reason for which the lady demonstrated. Sorry, I’m only human.

‘Pietitie’ has nothing to do with this demonstration.

I read that later, yes. However. When the petition was presented, the presenter spoke clearly of a joint action and called for all initiatives, including the ‘Pietitie.’
I spoke to the organizer of ‘Pietitie’ and told him I find it annoying that they are so in the news, but he said he understands that I have a job to do.
And for the record, the other organizations also are not to blame. They are not responsible for a small group of people who can not behave themselves.

The demonstration is now portrayed negatively in the news. 

That’s right, and that I find annoying. Especially for the girl who organized the demonstration. But as a photojournalist I bring reality into focus, even if it may be unflattering. Before this incident, there was nothing controversial. The atmosphere was friendly and cheerful. 

Then another remark by a journalist from De Telegraaf: “De Heus is making things up.”

That journalist was not present and based that opinion on a YouTube video that was recorded 8 minutes after I made my first picture. Journalistic high-mark.

Do you have more photos? Especially showing the large group of people?

Yes, I have posted them on my website.
And while I’m on the subject, let me clearly indicate:


Anyone who publishes a photo without permission will have to pay compensation . Not everyone knows or wants to know , but it’s just the law.
I am not very difficult or expensive, so please contact us if you want to publish photos.
This is not just a financial issue. But I also want to know where a photo is published and in what context.

The photos:

Another update on the woman it is all about: Tilly Kaisiëpo

She just called me and we had a nice conversation. She’s doing well, and she is very happy that there’s attention for West Papua  Tonight she’s telling her story on ‘Hart van Nederland.’

I hope I have answered your questions adequately. Otherwise let me know.


Zwarte Piet, Malieveld The Hague (English)

Voorstander (R) van Zwarte Piet duldt geen tegenspraak

Voorstander (R) van Zwarte Piet duldt geen tegenspraak

There she stands. A small black woman in a big white sweatshirt. Alone on a quiet patch of Malieveld (The Hague). Proudly she puts a flag in the air, the flag of West Papua where her roots lie, the flag that’s banned in Indonesia.
She demonstrates against the Indonesia that annexed West Papua. “Since that conflict, 400,000 Papuans killed.” And she demonstrates against the United Nations, the organization that does nothing to stop it.

Zwarte Piet

A few hundred meters further it looks a lot happier. People dancing and singing Sinterklaas songs. These people are also demonstrating against the UN, but for the preservation of Zwarte Piet. Also important.
When a small group of Zwarte Piet sympathizers sees the woman with the flag, the mood changes. A small group closes in on her. A blonde woman with black face paint starts screaming: “So you’re against Zwarte Piet? Go back to your own country!”
The woman stammers that she is not against Zwarte Piet, in fact she’s also protesting the UN. She thinks it’s important that the UN spend time and money into research in West Papua and that research into Zwarte Piet is nonsense and a waste of money. But the group doesn’t hear, or doesn’t want to hear. “She is against Zwarte Piet!”


More and more bystanders get involved. They yell at her and if she tries to speak, they drown her out with Sinterklaas songs.
The little woman is enclosed like the prey of a group of Hyenas. In the blue eyes of the black made-up faces the hatred seems visible. The eyes of the woman betrayed nothing but fear.


But when a man tries to take her flag, she fights like a lion to keep it. Bystanders are now laughing at her. The woman tries to escape the melee, but an older man comes behind her as if he is pursuing the worst kind of criminal. He grabs her and it looks like he wants to hit her. At that moment someone from the crowd holds his arm and pulls him away from the woman, who is now in panic.


The second time she is trapped, the police arrive. An officer asks the woman to come along “For your safety, ma’am.”
As the woman is walked to the waiting police van, a crowd of bystanders cheers. “She’s being arrested,” says a woman in tracksuit. “Rightly so,” notes her husband.


As (photo) journalist one must be objective. It’s my job to report what happens. Yet that is not always easy. Today I witnessed a group of people that picked a person out of a crowd to attack her. I stood by and took pictures. It felt uncomfortable, I felt guilty.
One time today I did interfere with the proceedings. A man grabbed the woman by the shoulder, and in a reflex I pulled his hand away. But in fact that is not my job; it’s my job to photograph. Yet I’m glad it did not get out of hand. The woman was not beaten. She was “only” threatened, harassed, insulted and “kindly” asked to adapt Dutch ways or to “piss off to her own country.”


For the Zwarte Piet sympathizers the demonstration was a great success. The ‘Pietitie’ on Facebook has received over 2 million ‘likes,’ and according to police the demonstration was a big party.
For the small black woman, who had a good reason to stand there, it was less pleasant. But, well. You shouldn’t say you’re against Zwarte Piet.


Unfortunately I could not speak to the woman afterward. I don’t know where she comes from or how her day ended. However, I would like to do something for her.
On the internet I came across a petition “Stop the ‘slow motion’ genocide in West Papua.”
It seems more sensible to sign this petition – than a ‘Pietitie’ for a non-existent fairy tale figure.

Translation Google / Greg Shapiro