Tens of thousands of people took part in demonstrations throughout the Netherlands on Thursday evening to show their support for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris.
In Amsterdam, an estimated 17,000 crammed in to the city’s Dam Square to listen to prime minister Mark Rutte and mayor Eberhard van der Laan, among others.
Many people were carrying pencils or pens and banners stating ‘Je suis Charlie’. The march, from the French consulate to the Dam, was led by journalists and police officers. The police presence on the Dam itself was low.
Compere and comedian Soundos el Ahmadi led the crowd in a chant of ‘we are Charlie’. ‘Vulnerability is not weakness,’ she said. ‘Vulnerability requires strength.’
The prime minister said the Netherlands would never allow its freedom to be taken away. ‘We are standing here because violence should never win over respect and tolerance,’ he said.
‘However different we are, we are united in the knowledge that our democracy is a rich and vulnerable thing that we need to defend together.’
‘Our message to the enemies of freedom is: we will not give way, not one millimetre,’ Van der Laan told the crowd.
In Rotterdam, mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb, who has been outspoken in his criticism of radical Islam, told some 3,000 demonstrators in French ‘I am Ahmed Aboutaleb. I’m usually mayor of Rotterdam but today I am a Parisian and I am Charlie.’
In The Hague, mayor Jozias van Aartsen described the attack on the magazine as ‘barbaric’. ‘It was an attack on everything our society stands for,’ he said.
Some 2,000 to 3,000 people took part in a demonstration in Utrecht and there were other gatherings in Breda, Hilversum, Delft, Eindhoven, Arnhem, Maastricht and many other towns and cities throughout the country.