On April 30, 2016, I changed my profile picture on Facebook where I was holding a sign with ‘No 4 May For Me’. At the time, I was in a group chat with other activists and we were discussing that we should do something on the 4th of May, we didn’t know exactly what and a specific action didn’t happen. That Saturday I decided to change my profile picture with a caption that I am not going to participate in the Remembrance Day commemoration. And this simple action totally ended my life, where my new life began.
Moment of action
The action was totally unplanned, there was no strategy behind it. It was just a statement I shared for my Facebook friends, which had to be around 500 at that time. As you can read, my statement is not particularly radical or shocking, but for that time it was. I’ve been active in activism since 2013 and I never actually shared pictures of my face, so my last name and my face were still unknown. This was because I was receiving serious threats from the start, and the anonymity protected me and my loved ones. Not only did I receive threats from racists, but I also received serious threats from activists who were active in the anti-black pete movement. Because I had attended more protests in the past, people in the community knew what I looked like, so I posted this picture with my face. The first day it didn’t get very many likes, but when a white male activist with a larger reach shared my photo, I quickly got 500 likes on the photo within a few hours. At that point, I had made the trade-off of going into total public view with my message, face and name. The photo was only visible to ‘friends of friends’ and only ‘friends’ could comment on my photo, and only ‘friends of friends’ could send me a friend request. I changed all settings to ‘public’ and ‘everyone’. And at that point things were already moving very quickly.
Prior to the action
But I hardly received any acclaim. Because I actively spoke out for the importance of intersectionality within the activism movement in 2014, I received serious threats. Such as being beaten up if people encountered me at protests and being doused with gasoline and set on fire. When I started out in activism, I first joined the online action group ‘Reason against Racism’, founded by Corna Dirks in 2013. In this Facebook group, posts got shared that got many racist comments. The goal of this action group was to engage in friendly conversation and everything we contributed in terms of arguments had to be supported by sources. Cursing was prohibited. If your comments were too hostile then you were reprimanded with a warning. If you did not want to comply you had to leave the group. I even was an admin of the Facebook page until 2015, I was one of the last people to be active, because of course many non-white activists got into trouble with this approach and this white woman. So the tone in which I spoke in 2014 when I was making the case for intersectionality was extremely moderate, which still resulted in fierce threats. But these threats never stopped me from going to protests. I thought the struggle was more important than interpersonal conflict and I was willing to face danger from the racists, as well as the activists if I had to. In February 2016, I participated in an anti black pete protest in Grou (Friesland). The protest was so stressful, an activist died of a heart attack on the way back. This affected us all deeply, and I saw many who attended quit activism immediately afterwards.
So when I did the ‘No 4 May For Me’ action, I was also burned out as an activist. I lived in Noordwijkerhout at the time and I was threatened by people from the village that they were going to throw a brick through my window and set the house on fire. I was photographed at my front door and my mailbox was covered with stickers by Identitair Verzet (identitarian resistance, a neo-nazi organization). People from my village called for asylum seekers’ centers to be stormed with machine guns, and that a gang rape should be committed on me by men dressed as black pete. The police never took this seriously and told me to stop protesting against black Pete if I wanted this violence against me to stop. The No 4th of May viral was something I couldn’t handle at the time. I weighed under 40kg, and my support group was very small for the violence I was experiencing at the time, without any safety net because the police clearly had taken sides.
The silence from the activism movement was very painful. Every day I received 800 private messages, and the statement had reached all news platforms.The comments I received under my picture went too fast to be able to read anything.Sometimes there were 5 more comments posted every second. I had a small support group that collected screenshots of the threats and to offer a counterbalance. For them it was also very heavy psychologically to continuously read the death threats and threats of rape. I am very grateful to them because this takes a lot of time and energy. GeenStijl (NoStyle) was a big platform at the time and they headlined my statement with ‘ferociously attractive’ and words like ‘attention whore’ which triggered many rape comments. I was invited to join the talk shows, Pauw and RTL Late Night, on national television. But after calling back and forth, they declined. At this point I was only reading private messages, doing danger assessments and arranging my social media feed as best I could with, for example, articles by academics who supported me. I referred to The Roberson Report because I believed Kevin could give a good overview of the activism movement in the Netherlands, and I thought it was important to start building a platform and have our own media institute. I was not interested in building my own platform.
From the anti-black pete movement we had already made a clear analysis that you should never trust the media, so doing interviews was only from a strategic point of view. My first interview was for Radio Oras, a Moluccan platform, because I had no experience in giving interviews and I wanted to boost small platforms. I gave some interviews just to try to keep myself safe, because a lot of people thought that I was going to scream through the 2 minutes of silence, or even commit a bomb attack. Nowhere in the caption of the statement on my profile picture did I give such signals, but the framing was very extreme. On Twitter I tried to counter this, which of course didn’t make much of a difference. I then decided not to do any interviews and give the scoop to Kevin Roberson for the Roberson Report. Of course, I never expected the vira, and the statement had to be refined. After all, I was not the first person to criticize the Remembrance Day holiday. The year before, for example, there was a protest on Dam Square by the Black community. We then recorded a short film with Kevin with more background information about the colonial past, but also highlighting the history of protest. In the video we also included other activists to show that it was not just about me, but that I am part of a group. This of course for damage control, but also to give the power to the movement rather than the individual. I got destroyed, but I also got praised to the skies as a national hero. With the ‘No 4 May For Me’ action, I had to completely rid myself of my ego. I tried to give strength to the activism movement that threatened and betrayed me so badly. I only thought of one thing: This action should be used to build a movement, and everyone should know the route to know where they can join.Hence, I chose Kevin Roberson’s media platform becausehe did reports on the movement from all the different organizations. I, as an individual, would never share organizations that are threatening me.
Hijacking of the protest
In a capitalist society where we take advantage of trends, others also tried to take advantage of the ‘No 4 May For Me’ viral. Like Brian, who now has been able to make a music career because he went viral due to giving a counter-reaction againstmy statement. How my face appeared all over the media, he got portrayed as a counterpart. Where my post got 14 thousand likes, his statement got 88 thousand likes. In one fell swoop, he became well known for praising how great the Netherlands is. I currently have no access to the social media accounts of ‘No 4 May For Me’, because it has all been hijacked.
Effects on private life
At the time I went viral with ‘No 4 May For Me’, I was a student and worked in a homeless shelter in Amsterdam. Because the threats were so severe, I immediately stopped my studies and work. I could no longer go to fixed locations at fixed times. I didn’t do things like go
shopping and groceries for months. My face truly was everywhere and in a small racist village like Noordwijkerhout, where it is normal to openly walk around with white power symbols, everyone quickly knew who I was. Working in the homeless shelter made me incredibly happy, but it is too dangerous to work somewhere where anyone can walk in and out and where it is very normal to be armed. The viral caused me to erase myself from existence for my own safety.During the action and interviews, but also in my private life by quitting everything. After 3 months I moved out of Noordwijkerhout and got a relationship with a Palestinian I had met through the action. He and his family strongly influenced me politically at the time. I stopped dealing with white people for years because I didn’t feel physically and intellectually safe around them anymore. This strengthened my character tremendously. He was also able to offer me protection from the Nazi’s who were after me, or when the police were looking for me for an illegal preventive arrest. For it was no longer safe for me to walk the streets alone. The few times I did walk the streets alone, things also went wrong immediately. In October 2016, I was recognized by an unknown guy and I was assaulted on a weekday at 4 p.m. near Leiden Central Station. Not a single bystander helped me. My partner, together with others, immediately came to me to look for this Nazi, but we did not find him again.
The dynamics change in activism
‘The No 4 May For Me’ action had a big effect on the activism movement in the Netherlands. People from within the movement were angry with us. Because I had become a public figure and one of the faces of the movement,we would be a disgrace to the movement. Our faces ensured that the movement’s strategy got ruined; the people of the movement put a lot of energy into building a peaceful reputation. We as a group were the only ones who were big advocates for racists losing their jobs when they made racist statements, and we made sure of that by approaching employers. This, and our positions for intersectionality, was too radical for the activism movement. It created a divide in the movement, and the people who sympathized with us got culled from the much larger, moderate group. This caused people to be afraid to publicly show support for us. Therefore, during the ‘No 4 May For Me’ viral, no one was expressing any kind of support. In July 2016, we went viral again with the action against a theme park called the Efteling. This time an anonymous, masked action, a video made by Kevin Roberson. But the regular group of racists who harassed us everywhere posted our names under every media item, and some activists from the moderate camp joined in, wanting to openly distance themselves from the radical look the activism movement was getting. There is no proof, but I suspect this action against the Efteling went viral partly because of the ‘No 4 May For Me’ protest. The action was two months after the ‘No 4 May For Me’ protest. There was a big fear in the Netherlands that there would be a wave of activism coming up that would endanger all their traditions, like Black Pete (blackface), the Dutch Memorial Day and now the Efteling. Indeed, the activism community in the Netherlands was only a small group in 2016, it was not as big as it is now in 2022. The establishment of the political party DENK provided a revenue model, which motivated more people to become active. The Efteling action was also very stressful for me because the threats were very intense. I was also afraid of liquidations or the police arresting us and killing us in the jail cellunder the guise of suicide. Mitchel Winters had been shot dead by the police on May 30, 2016, and there was a lot of attention on deadly police violence, which also blew over from the BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement from the United States. We then recorded videos where we made a statement that we would never commit suicide if the police caught us. These videos would never be brought out unless we died under police supervision. This was personally very confronting for me. In October 2016, the actiongroup ‘Grauwe Eeuw’ (Grey Century) went viral with the daubing of Jan Pieterszoon Coen statue. Because I was the new face of the activism movement in the Netherlands, every protest had my name and face attached to it and I was called by journalists for an interview every time. For my own safety, I said that I was not behind any of the protests, but that I supported them 100%. The protest against the Efteling and the action by the Grey Century were in a kind of flow after the ‘No 4 May For Me’ protest, which always made the national news and caused a lot of threats, without any support from the activism movement because we would stigmatize and criminalize them. Despite serious threats from the activism movement, I still went to Maassluis to protest against Zwarte Piet. I usually was the only one of our group who kept going to physical protests. This time I did take someone with me to protect me from the police, nazis and activists. From the beginning in Duivendrecht to the end in the arrest buses, I livestreamed everything via the Roberson Report. Because it was livestreamed in one piece, the footage helped win the KOZP (Kick Out Black Pete) lawsuits. I never was thanked for this. In fact, we got kicked out of the bus by fellow activists after we got released from the police station because we rode the car with Kevin to the protest and had no money and energy to take the train home. When we left Duivendrecht station KOZP (Kick Out Black Pete) also tried to send us away while on our way to Maassluis, but they couldn’t because we came with our own transport. The activism movement wanted nothing to do with us, but couldn’t ignore the successes our work produced. We were also mentioned in the NCTV (National Coordinator for Counterterrorism) report in the meantime.
A successful annual debate and hiding behind the scenes
The following Remembrance Day on May 4th, we did nothing. We were tired. Without doing anything ourselves, the debate about the Dutch Memorial Day came back. ‘No 4 May For Me’ had thus become not a one time event, but an annual debate. In 2017 our work also became more formal, the collaboration with the K.U.K.B. Foundation (Indonesian Reparations Committee) came about, and in that year I especially was busy surviving an abusive relationship. In September 2017, my partner and I were finally separated, with great difficulty, for two weeks, but we reconnected because I ran into the guy who had abused me a year earlier, who this time was with another known Nazi. I then went into a store and called my boyfriend who immediately came to me, which took him an hour. The two Nazi’s spent an hour looking for me. When my partner and his friends arrived, I gave them directions to where they were. The two nazis saw that i was on the phone when I walked in their direction and they started to flee. I shouted on the phone for everyone to run after them immediately. We ran all over the neighborhood. Residents gave us directions to where the Nazi’s had run to, and at a certain point we got in the car and started driving around because we were running out of energy. As we were driving on a 4-lane road, we saw them looking around the corner in a residential area. We drove against traffic and stopped the car crosswise on the road. The men got out of the car, and I climbed behind the wheel and quickly drove to the residential area where the Nazis were. The Nazis were waiting for them with bricks but they were beaten up in someone’s backyard. But because I was in the car and didn’t quite know where they were, I couldn’t be there. They wanted to wait for me so I could put my shoe in their mouth and do whatever I wanted with them, but the resident started calling the police, as his garden had been vandalized. His garden furniture, such as watering cans and figurines, had been smashed on their heads. I picked them up with the car and took them to another place. That night we had a party to celebrate finally catching these Nazis after a year. But this violence also fostered domestic violence again because my boyfriend and I got back in touch with each other. I was too dependent on him to keep me safe, while he was also unsafe for me. We kept getting back in touch because it was the safest option for me. A few weeks later I was in hiding in a women’s shelter. The quarrels got out of hand, the police or ambulance had to come several times a week.I got seriously stalked. He also stalked me in the women’s shelter, after which I returned home after a week because I was treated incorrectly by the staff there; they told him where I was staying. At the end of October, just after the action of the Grey Century against Jan Pieterszoon Coen, 10 Nazis were at my door to take revenge for the fight a month earlier. Nothing happened, my boyfriend was with me and supported me. A few weeks later in November, the first illegal preventive arrests happened. Someone from our group had posted a comment about killing St. Nicholas (Sinterklaas). They were also looking for me, and my partner then helped me to go into hiding. He drove me everywhere and made sure I didn’t have to go outside. I was not arrested at that time. In February 2018, I still was arrested in my home to come for interrogation because someone from our group had appeared on a talk show on national television. Although my partner and I could kill each other, we were always there for each other. The arrest was very intense for him. A month later, we broke up for good.
The second action and state repression
In 2018, the second action against the Dutch Memorial Day happened. This time a noise protest at 8pm because the war criminals were commemorated but not the Indonesian victims. It was
announced anonymously and for the first few days my picture was shared everywhere. On a pro Zwarte Piet Facebook page I saw my photo with 10 thousand comments. Many threats of violence, rape and my address was also shared several times. After a few days a white man from our group stepped forward as spokesperson of the action. This eased the violence I was receiving. Because I had received so much violence from Nazis and because I had been out of a women’s shelter for a few months, I wanted to stay as far from the publicity as possible during this action. This year the violence was not only coming from the side of white people, but groups like Marron United and AFCA Maluku were ready to come to Dam Square with fight squads to force silence. During this time, all of our Facebook accounts were also removed from Facebook by the government.
Being preventively arrested is a violation of human rights. In 2018 it happened again, prior to the Saint Nicholas parade. After we had fileda summary proceedingagainst the parade, someone from our group was blindfolded and taken into a van by 15 undercover police officers in the street outside the court of Haarlem. Hundreds of threats had already gotten reported because of the summary proceedings, so we were already on guard. We thought that the arrest was an attack by Nazis and that we would never see our friend alive again. Here you can see how the state tries to eliminate activists by traumatizing them, because they also harassed those close to them. One by one, our group got arrested in our homes, which was scary. If you didn’t hear from someone, they either were in the hospital because they got attacked by someone, or they got arrested. The police also started harassing my family because they couldn’t find me. They went to my family’s home, woke up the children at night and said they would continue to come every hour throughout the night until they found me. Through my lawyer, I arranged that I could report to the agency the next morning, so my family would be left alone. I didn’t mind being jailed, but the surprise of having your self-determination taken away by the state is a trauma I wanted to protect myself from. After all, I saw with my own eyes how they can blindfold you, kidnap you and throw you in a van as undercovers in civilian clothes. In this period I also found out that Vincent Teunissen was suspected of planning a terrorist attack on Muslims, Volkert van de Graaff, Sylvana Simons, and on me he had specific plans. In his house USB sticks were found with my address and other information, an alarm pistol and 1800 bullets. He told me that he wanted to kidnap me, commit gang rape and if I did not renounce my activismI would be executed. I read this by googling myself, because the prosecution and journalists made a whole sensational story out of it without informing me. Vincent Teunissen received a 3-year prison sentence. These threats were all made after the No 4 May for me action. I continuously felt unsafe in my body at that time and was afraid of being shot through the head when I walked outside. If someone approached me too close I would have a panic attack because I was afraid someone would stab me. I felt like I was constantly being followed and watched. This is also one of the reasons that my ex’s stalking stopped, because dealing with me became more and more dangerous. During, but also after our relationship, we were watched by the AIVD (General Intelligence and Security Service). That happened through chasesand so-called clients who visited him at work and started asking him questions about political topics in which I was involved.These were intimidation tactics of the state. Also, requested police files showed how I was tapped through the microphone of my phone. Conversations I had not had over the phone, but face to face were documented in police files. Of course I knew I was being tapped, but to actually see the evidence felt very vulnerable, naked and frightening. During this time, my sister was also approached to join the police force. I immediately suspected that she was being recruited by the AIVD to keep an eye on me. I broke off contact with her.
The last year of domestic activism
In 2019 the last series of preventative arrests happened, probably also due to the pandemic in 2020. It happened after I came back from Indonesia. When I got home I got a call from a lawyer that the police had been in my house a few hours ago and kidnapped someone from my house with force and pepper spray. Because I had two cats at home, I had to keep a close eye on them to see if they had any injuries, and that I had to be careful when cleaning because water activates the pepper spray. I immediately packed my things and left the house. The Saint Nicholas Parade was in two days, so that means I only had to stay off the radar for two days. Again, the police went to visit my family,but were sent away with a crowbar. I was tired of the preventive arrests and the paranoia that comes along with it. There was an anti-blackface protest announced in The Hague and I decided to go there even though I was wanted by the police. I thought, I haven’t gone to an anti blackface protest since 2016 because of the preventive arrests, and I just want to try to go. The police probably don’t expect me there anyway. I managed to get there via routes where there are no cameras, and after the demonstration was over, I got a call from my lawyer that my friends were free, and that I could assume they weren’t looking for me either. What many people noticed is that there was not a single mention of our preventive arrests in the speeches during the demonstrations by KOZP (Kick Out Black Pete). The activism movement still wanted nothing to do with us, even though our human rights were violated for years. After all these years, we were still excluded, even though they now took on the same (radical) positions on intersectionality and how to deal with racists, which they threatened us for before. In fact, now it’s not radical anymore. This was also the period when I had decided to leave the organization I was involved with. I gained important insights in Indonesia, and with the intense experiences we went through together, you can perhaps imagine that going my own way could feel like a betrayal for my friends. I began to focus on my individual decolonization process and my next trip to Surinam. Because there was a warrant out for my arrest by the police in 2019, I was stopped twice at Schiphol Airport by the Koninklijke Marechaussee (Royal Military Police) when I went to Surinam. I had to make a statement about what I was going to do there, whether I would do political activities in Surinam, and they wanted to have names and addresses and know how much money I had with me. I don’t have a criminal record, but I am internationally flagged as a political activist, even though everything I was involved in before I went to Indonesia was not very important internationally.
The protest of ‘No 4 May For Me’ has changed my entire life. It has also permanently changed my relationships. Because of my reputation and notoriety, people continuously have a certain image of me that they assume without building up personal experiences with me. The ‘inhuman’ image that people have of me creates a distance that they find difficult to connect with. The erasure and dehumanization I experience from the activism community are not fragmented events. These events are linked, which makes this aggression I’ve received for the past 9 years, and continue to receive, structural. People also can’t imagine the level of violence I have experienced, often thinking I am some kind of robot. As if only a human without feelings could endure this. I have given a lot of myself for the collective in the Netherlands. I have provided important education and analyses, I have contributed to the Dutch discourse, I have contributed to legal justice, I have exposed social discussions that were previously far too dangerous to discuss. For this I have sacrificed my physical and emotional safety. My reputation, my private life has been destroyed. While the erasure continues. In June 2020, the organizers of the demonstration against the JP Coen statue even had me removed from the protest by the police. Sending police to fellow activists should never be acceptable in the movement.
The movement is still very dangerous for me. I have a long history with police repression and, for example, taking actions against the JP Coen statue, but because of the toxic activism dynamic, the radical activists are pushed aside because we are a danger to the revenue model. The organizers had in fact been offered a job in the West Fries Museum as a curator, as a result of the protest.
The Netherlands is a much too unsafe country for me. By that I especially mean how activists are treating me and how they treat each other. The activists destroy each other, they are snitching and stick a knife in each other’s backs. How Quinsy Gario was treated by BIJ1 (political party) should never have been allowed to happen. The Netherlands relies too much on trends and do not see a process, have no elder culture and since the rise of social media, individualization in the form of ‘activism branding’ has become a big problem. And as you can see, the Netherlands has a big problem with tone policing. If you look back to 2013 how moderate the tone was in which activists spoke at that time, and the threat it posed if you became more harsh. Likewise, the tone of my ‘No 4 May For Me’ post is also very moderate and would never generate the national outcry and danger if it was said now. Presently, the tone policing still haunts me, even though these views and the way it is brought are now accepted. I remain censured. Nevertheless, I will continue my work forever. The collective, my ancestors and the martyrs are my greatest motivation. I am grateful for all these events because it has given me a special perspective that has allowed me to make important analyses.
If you want to comment, support or if you want to organize you can send me a DM on instagram: @christa_noella or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Proofread by: Masyati Moore