PM Rutte leads 18,000 person rally in Amsterdam; "Hands off our freedom"

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Over 18,000 people showed up at Dam Square in Amsterdam to rally in support of free speech, a free press and the victims of the shootings at Charlie Hebdo in Paris. “Today we say by the thousands, ‘Hands off our freedom,’” Prime Minister Mark Rutte firmly said. “Today, we stand on the Dam in Amsterdam, and across the Netherlands,” said Prime Minister Mark Rutte earlier in the speech. “One in our disgust, one in anger, but also one in our convictions,” he told the crowd. “We do not allow ourselves to be governed by fear. We do not allow our freedoms to be taken away. That is the message reverberating loud and clear tonight.”

“Terrorists are trying to sow fear and division,” Amsterdam Mayor Eberhard van der Laan said. “That inspires fear, it goes without saying, but courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is overcoming fear,” he continued. “We will overcome every fear.” After his speech, the mayor reiterated the importance of a society that does not bend to crimes and acts of terror. “We are an open and democratic society. Freedom is what counts,” he said in an interview with the NL Times. “That makes us vulnerable, but don’t think you terrorists [out there] that by creating fear and trying to divide us that you can win this, because we will not be divided.” The evening event began with a gathering in front of the French consulate in Amsterdam. The Prime Minister, Mayor, as well as Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten and his number two Fred Teeven all joined the nation’s journalists, in a walk through the city center to the Dam closely followed by thousands of residents and visitors. Also on the Dam was Foreign Minister Bert Koenders, Education Minister Jet Bussemaker, and several French diplomats.

“It is important that we join your colleagues in solidarity,” Minister Opstelten told the NL Times. The minister’s sentiment was similar to one said by Mayor Van der Laan. “And we show our solidarity with all journalists and policemen who stand up daily for our freedoms,” the mayor told the hushed crowd. "The cold-blooded execution of our French colleagues engaged in guarding our security makes me furious,” Amsterdam police chief Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg told the gathered audience. The rally in Amsterdam was one of over thirty held across the country.