Twenty arrested at Amsterdam anti-Islam rally; Pegida plans to protest mayor

An anti-Pegida banner hung during a demonstration by the anti-Islam movement in Amsterdam on 6 Feb 2016. In English it reads: "Stopping Pegida is self defense" (Photo: @Joos4/Twitter)An anti-Pegida banner hung during a demonstration by the anti-Islam movement in Amsterdam on 6 Feb 2016. In English it reads: "Stopping Pegida is self defense" (Photo: @Joos4/Twitter)

Twenty people were arrested during a demonstration by anti-Islam group Pegida in Amsterdam on Saturday. Several groups of counter-demonstrators were also present and most of the arrested people came from these groups, AT5 reports.

The Pegida-demonstration was initially to take place in front of Mayor Eberhard van der Laan's house at the Stopera, but had to be moved after a suspicious package was found. The Explosive Ordnance disposal team was called in to investigate. The package eventually turned out to be a fake bomb made from fireworks.

Pegida rejected the first alternative location for their protest, at the Pinoza statue. "The short route to the statue was unavailable because the the bomb squad was busy here" Pegida spokesperson Edwin Utrecht said to AT5. "Going around was not an option because we would then pass a large group of counter-protesters that the police did not have under control." The protest was eventually moved to the Blauwbrug, but had to end early at 4:00 p.m.

The anti-Islam wants to demonstrate again at the end of the month, this time at the original demonstration location in front of the mayor's house. The group is also considering pressing charges against the Mayor for moving the protest. "We are now letting a lawyer look into whether it is more convenient to do so as a movement, or whether several charges from a number of demonstrators is better", Utrecht said.

Van der Laan thinks the criticism is unjustified. "Someone disrupted this demonstration. He put down a bike with a deceptively real fake-bomb. What we did is offer Pegida another place to demonstrate", he said, according to the Amsterdam broadcaster. A spokesperson for the Mayor added that the police guaranteed Pegida safe passage on Saturday, but the organization itself decided not to take up this offer.

Left-wing parties from the Amsterdam city council announced a counter-action before the Pegida demonstration, NRC reports. For every person that attended the demonstration, GroenLinks, SP and PvdA would donate 5 euros to asylum seeker organization Vluchtelingenwerk Amsterdam, the parties announced. "The so-called citizens' movement Pegida, which is led by whole- and half Nazis, calls for hatred and exclusion. We stand for connection and solidarity and will happily help them to turn their visit to Amsterdam into something positive", GroenLinks leader Rutger Groot Wassink said.

SP councilor in Amsterdam Peter Kwint was threatened on Twitter, via email and over the phone before the demonstration. "They said: you are an NSB man and must be put against the wall", Kwint said to NRC. "Or something about me being thrown in a canal."