The Dutch leader is in talks with protesters against racism

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) – Prime Minister Mark Rutte met Dutch Black Lives Matter protesters on Wednesday to discuss how best to tackle racism and deep-seated inequality in the Netherlands.

Rutte invited a small group to his official residence in The Hague, but no organizers of massive Black Lives Matter protests or members of the action group Kick Out Black Pete, who has been campaigning for years against the character of the children, often played by white people in blackface makeup.

“We think it’s more of a PR stunt than a serious fight against racism,” said Mitchell Esajas, who is part of the Kick Out Black Pete group and the Black Lives Matter movement in the Netherlands and was not invited to the talks .

Rutte said after the meeting that he had agreed to continue talking about the issue of racism, including to leaders of the two movements.

He said he wants to use the wave of anger and activism unleashed by images of George Floyd’s death in the US to bring about change. Floyd, a black man who shouted that he couldn’t breathe when a white Minneapolis cop pressed a knee to his neck for more than eight minutes, died on May 25.

Clearly, all the things we already do to tackle discrimination and racism are not enough, he said.

One of the black activists involved in the talks, Gideon Everduim, said he had a clear message for Rutte.

“I told the Prime Minister it’s time for leadership,” he said. “That there is a big difference between racism and discrimination. The prime minister thought racism was in our heads and I had to make it clear to him that it was something in the system. ‘

Everduim said eradicating racism must begin with a clear understanding of the issue.

“We need to start with education,” he said. “If you don’t know what racism really is, you can’t wipe it out.”

In recent years, much of the polarized Dutch debate about race has revolved around Black Pete, but since Floyd’s death it has expanded to include racism and injustice across society.

Earlier this month, Rutte admitted that racial inequality was not just a problem in the United States.

“There are also people living in the Netherlands who feel that they do not fully belong, that they cannot play a full role in this society,” he said. ‘That is also a Dutch problem. There is also racism here. There is also discrimination here. ‘

Black people, other minorities and the national human rights watchdog say the problem is ingrained in society.

A report of 10 June by the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights stated that discrimination in public places – based on, among other things, skin color, religion and sexual orientation – is a ‘structural’ problem. The Institute has urged the government to appoint a coordinator to deal with the problem.

Lawyers say that Dutch minorities face inequality, including racial profiling, police brutality and discrimination at work, in schools and when trying to rent a house.

In May, the Dutch government took the unusual step of asking prosecutors to investigate the country’s tax authorities for possible discrimination amid reports that tax officials were using racial profiling to tackle potential fraudsters. And over the weekend, police said they were investigating a letter of threat to one of the most prominent anti-Zwarte Piet activists.

Rutte said that he spoke about Zwarte Piet during the conversations, but that was not the most important thing.

“It was really about how we can use the energy in the Netherlands that has been released worldwide and certainly in this country by the terrible images from America,” he said. “How can we use it to deliver a tremendous blow against these terrible phenomena? of discrimination, racism, exclusion. ‘

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