Columns & OpinionsWith these painful words, Pride Ambassador Dolly Bellefleur -in her letter to Dutch newspaper “De Telegraaf” - describes how she, and others with her, had experienced the 2018 Canal Parade as a participant. by Lucien Spee
- 11 May 2019
|‘Parts of the Prinsengracht were Hell on Earth’|
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Due to its unique character and the enormous success of recent years, we have seen a significant increase in the number of visitors, both on the quay and on the water, with a higher degree of disruption. Looking at evaluations, the genie has been out of the bottle since 2012 and, due to lack of enforcement, now has devilish qualities, according to some.
The question that I have been asked a lot lately is how it all could come to this. Initially this was due to the fact that the limited enforcement capacity of the government was only directed towards checking us as a permit holder, as well as the activities and objects that were licensed to us. An enforcer, for instance, ordered us to remove a parasol because it was not mentioned in the license, while ignoring a salesman with a hamburger stand that was put up illegally.
As this enforcement issue is also under the attention of the city council since the evaluation of Pride 2015, there has been no capacity shortage since, as additional manpower from other municipalities has been arranged. However, these enforcers were then sent out with an impossible task.
The late mayor Eberhard van der Laan wanted it to be a party for everyone on the quays, and gave the order to allow music and bands everywhere until the first boat started off the Parade. The idea behind it was of course commendable, but made enforcement virtually impossible. With a parade in full swing and 400,000 visitors, there is no way to get through, and the police no longer had the capacity to support enforcers in the event of any disturbances. The latter has led to all extra enforcers behaving like stewards, kindly asking people violating the rules to turn the music off, but unable to intervene if they did not comply.
Until last year, the policy of regulated tolerance was mainly a thorn in the “ear” of a number of (houseboat) residents who have been dragging us to court since 2016, which is now in front of the Council of State. But through the introduction of the new event policy with a lowered decibel standard of 95 instead of 103 dB(C) and the strict monitoring thereof, the disruptions now have also become a problem for our participants.
“This year we had to adhere to extra strict rules regarding noise, but were drowned out by troublemakers in non-Parade boats on the quay. Parts of the Prinsengracht truly were hell on earth. The atmosphere was dark and even aggressive. Boats were three rows thick with very anti-social people on them. They had their own DJ on board, and their music was so loud that you had the feeling that you had to fight a wall of sound,” according to Dolly Bellefleur in newspapers “De Telegraaf” and “Het Parool.”
After reading this, it was clear to the new city council that something had to be done, but what and how was not immediately clear to them. At the initiative of the mayor, a civic dialogue was started to see whether the Pride could still count on enough support and what course of action should be taken.
After a few nerve-racking months of discussions and evaluations, we received the green light from the mayor to work with her officials on a new implementation model on January 27. The plans still need to be worked out in detail, but we were able to present them in broad outlines to the city council and the residents of Amsterdam in early April.
With two drastic measures, we think we can reduce excessive nuisance. Firstly, we will regulate the use of the available space on the water along the route (without permission from us as organizers, people can no longer simply dock their boats on the quay) and, secondly, the municipality will not allow amplified noise along the route on moored boats and in streets. These measures are not taken to limit the event, but to protect it.
Since May 1, information on the website www.botenparade.nl will be available on how to ask for an exemption for your boat that is not part of the parade.
Lucien Spee is managing director of the Amsterdam Pride Foundation , organizer of the yearly Amsterdam Pride, which will be take place from July 27 - August 4, 2019. See www.pride.amsterdam for more information on this event.
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