Kaag was met in Diepenheim in Twente by demonstrators who are against the cabinet. According to historian Hans Goedkoop, the fact that demonstrators held a torch is because the torch has traditionally been used by demonstrators. “When the protests really started, there was no light yet,” he told Editie NL. “The torch is perhaps the oldest means of protest we know of,” he continues.
“It was a way to be seen and it was an ideal tool because you could set fire to your neighbor’s shed at the same time if you were really angry.”
But that also means that the torch can be intimidating. “When the man with the torch was at Kaag’s house, it was threatening. If you now wait for Sigrid Kaag with a torch, you must take it as threatening.”
However, a torch does not always have a negative connotation. “It often stands before the fire of the revolution, to show that people want change. And with the torch you can then symbolically highlight the ‘good’ side.”
That is why the torch is often used as a positive symbol. For example at the Statue of Liberty, but also at the Olympic Games where the torch is used. In the Netherlands, the torch is the symbol of the National 4 and 5 May Committee.
During the corona period, torches were also used during the demonstrations as a symbol of freedom. But not everyone took it that way. According to historian Merlijn Schoonenboom, who works for the Germany Institute, the Germans viewed these protests in the Netherlands with disbelief. “Here in Germany, the torch is seen as something very threatening,” he told Editie NL. “That’s because the Nazis in the 1930s stood in front of politicians’ houses with burning torches to intimidate them. The torch is the most aggressive means you can use in Germany. Here in the Netherlands it is perhaps used more by freedom fighters. “
That is also how the torchbearers themselves see it. Derk Jan Lansink states to RTL Nieuws on behalf of the organization that the action is not intended to be intimidating or threatening: “We distributed flyers to get as many people as possible on their feet. We were with about fifty demonstrators. One of them, from a another group came up with the idea of carrying torches. That idea was adopted by a few demonstrators. But as a sign of warmth. We wanted to give Mrs Kaag a warm welcome.”
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