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Saturday, February 17, 2024

Thousands gather to protest against discrimination in Amsterdam

It became a canvas for expression as people lit candles and raised cellphone lights in a visually striking yet mostly silent protest.

Amsterdam, a city known for its vibrant culture and inclusive spirit, witnessed a poignant gathering on Friday, as over a thousand individuals convened in Dam Square to express their solidarity with marginalised groups. This demonstration of unity came in the aftermath of the recent general election, which saw the far-right Freedom Party (PVV), led by anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, secure significant gains. The silent protest, organised under the banner of “Together for Solidarity,” aimed to highlight the commitment to defending the values of inclusivity, diversity, and the rule of law in the face of an increasingly polarised political landscape.

Election Upset

The election results, particularly the success of Geert Wilders and his PVV, sent shockwaves through the traditionally progressive Dutch political scene. Wilders’ platform, centred on closing borders to immigrants and slashing funding for climate change initiatives, cultural programs, and foreign development, raised concerns among various segments of society. As the PVV seeks to build a governing coalition, the implications of its rise have spurred citizens into action.

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Voices of Concern

Amsterdam’s Dam Square became a canvas for expression as people lit candles and raised cellphone lights in a visually striking yet mostly silent protest. The diverse coalition of demonstrators included participants from Amnesty International, Greenpeace, LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, arts and peace organisations, refugee supporters, and anti-racism activists. Their collective aim was to convey a resounding message that the Netherlands remains a country “for everyone.”

Sara Coster, a 58-year-old participant, expressed her sadness over the election results and voiced her concerns about the future. “I was most proud of the Netherlands because we welcome people, and everybody can be who you are,” she said. “I’m really flabbergasted and shocked and angry.”

Jan Jaap van Oosterzee, 62, echoed these sentiments, stating that Wilders’ victory was “against everything we’re standing for.” He pointed out the potential repercussions of the PVV’s agenda, emphasising that it “stands for exclusion of my colleagues, of my children, of denying climate change.” For Oosterzee and many others, the core values they hold dear are now at stake.

Building Bridges Amidst Division

The “Together for Solidarity” protest served as a powerful visual representation of unity in diversity. Organisers deliberately brought together a broad spectrum of advocacy groups and individuals, creating a coalition that transcended traditional political boundaries. Amnesty International, known for its global human rights advocacy, stood side by side with LGBTQ+ activists, environmentalists, and anti-racism advocates. This collaboration highlighted the interconnectedness of various social justice causes and the shared commitment to preserving the Netherlands’ inclusive identity.

Call for Continued Resistance

As the PVV endeavours to shape the nation’s future policies, the diverse coalition of demonstrators in Amsterdam sends a clear message—they are determined to resist any attempt to erode the principles of equality and inclusion. The upcoming Muslim demonstration on December 2 adds another layer to this resistance, as the community expresses its concerns about rising populism and the propagation of hate.

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Amsterdam’s Dam Square became a rallying point for those who refuse to accept the divisive rhetoric of the recent election results. The “Together for Solidarity” protest demonstrated that, in the face of political shifts, the people of Amsterdam are committed to upholding the values that have long defined their nation—a commitment to inclusivity, diversity, and the protection of the rights of all citizens. As the city looks ahead, the collective voice of the demonstrators resounds as a call to action: a call to defend the essence of a nation that truly is ‘for everyone.’