Amsterdam crowd protests against discrimination after Dutch far-right win

By Esther Verkaik

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – More than a thousand people gathered in Amsterdam on Friday in support of groups facing discrimination in the Netherlands, after major gains for a far-right political party this week.

In Amsterdam’s central Dam Square people lit candles or held up cellphone lights in a mostly silent protest, two days after the general election in which the Freedom Party (PVV) of anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders won the most seats.

Wilders, who is now trying to build a governing coalition, has vowed to close Dutch borders to immigrants and cut spending on climate change, cultural and foreign development programmes.

Organisers of the “Together for Solidarity” protest included Amnesty International, Greenpeace, groups supporting gay rights, the arts, peace and refugees, as well as anti-racism activists and left-leaning political parties.

They said they wanted to show that they would continue to defend the rule of law and a country that is ‘for everyone.’

“I feel sad about the election results … And I’m really worried about our country,” said Sara Coster.

“I was most proud of the Netherlands because we welcome people and everybody can be who you are and I’m really flabbergasted and shocked and angry,” the 58-year-old added.

Another demonstrator, Jan Jaap van Oosterzee, 62, said he felt Wilders’ win was “against every thing we’re standing for, and that I’m personally standing for”.

Wilders party “stands for exclusion of my colleagues, of my children, of denying climate change,” he said.

“Really everything that’s dear to us and that we find important is at stake here,” Oosterzee added

Muslim groups are planning a demonstration in Amsterdam on Dec. 2 to protest against “populism and sowing hate”. Muslims, who make up around 5% of the Dutch population of almost 18 million people, have expressed shock at the election result.

(Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Alexander Smith)