Removing “I Amsterdam” Sign Defies Logic

Mariella van der Sluijs, Op/Ed Editor

Last year, I wrote an ode to the then-mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan, who has since tragically lost his battle to cancer. The void left by the beloved mayor was felt by everyone in the city, and he left big shoes to fill.

It was up to City Council to find an appropriate replacement, as mayors are not elected in The Netherlands; they are appointed. In July of this year, the City Council decided on Femke Halsema, former leader of GroenLinks (translated as GreenLeft), as the first female mayor of Amsterdam. GroenLinks has been the largest party on the City Council since the last election, which made Halsema’s appointment no surprise.

This party, which has taken over Amsterdam, has now decided to remove the iconic “I Amsterdam” from the city, saying it represented “rampant individualism” when the city should be representing “solidarity.” GroenLinks is supported in its efforts by coalition parties Democraten 66 (Democrats 66), Partij van de Arbeid (Labor Party) and Socialistische Partij (Socialist Party).

Chairman of GroenLinks Amsterdam, Femke Roosema, is driving the removal effort. “I think that the letters have become more of mass tourism, commercialization of the city … and I think it is good that we are saying that mass tourism, that commercialization, we do not want that anymore and with that, the letters can also disappear as a symbol.” To the question of whether she thinks the removal would actually bring about change, Roosema simply answered, “I do not think a lot will change but at the end of the day it is about the symbol and the meaning of symbols.”

To summarize, the leftist government of Amsterdam decided to remove a popular landmark because it attracted mass tourism (as tourism is the apex of all evil) and commercialization (why would you ever want to attract businesses to your city?), but they do not think the statement will actually bring about change. If you are not following this logic, trust me, you are not the only one.

“I Amsterdam” is immensely popular and brings together people from all over the world. If anything, it does represent solidarity. All of my friends from John Carroll University who have visited me in Amsterdam wanted to see the sign. In fact, once I was in front of the sign and saw someone from Utah who I had met earlier that year at the National Model Arab League Conference at Georgetown University. Talk about bringing people from all over the world together!

Roosema, however, argues that the people of Amsterdam should talk about what we want to be as a city. “Do we want to be a product of a marketing strategy to get as many people here as possible and earn a lot of money or do we want to be a society of solidarity, diversity and tolerance?” To that I would say, there is nothing wrong with wanting to attract people and capital to your city, as it helps the locals. Moreover, at this sign I have experienced what? more than in many other parts of the city. These two things are not mutually exclusive, nor should they be. As a citizen of the city of Amsterdam, I do think that this is what we want to be as a city. But if the leftist leadership of the city wants to represent more solidarity, I suggest they move to the other side of the country and create We Arnhem.