Pegida leader arrested in Amsterdam for Swastika flag
Update, 29 February 2016: A paragraph was added to clarify the city's stance on the swastika.
The leader of anti-Islam group Pegida was arrested after he unfurled his group's banner emblazoned with a swastika during a rally at Amsterdam city hall on Saturday. In getting approval for the rally, Pegida was informed by Mayor Eberhard van der Laan that displaying a swastika was prohibited, the police said after the arrest.
Pegida leader Edwin Wagensveld refused to cover up or remove the sign when instructed by police, prompting the arrest. Guidelines for the rally, published by the city on Feb. 25, also made clear the city's stance against displaying swastikas. On the Pegida banner, the swastika is shown in a trash can, but to the city of Amsterdam the context is not at issue.
“The use of swastikas will not be tolerated, even if they are included in a protest sign or other form of expression where the National Socialist ideology is rejected, or in any other manner of speech whatsoever,” the city said. It stated that the swastika has too strong of a link with Amsterdam’s “traumatic past,” and that its display “may lead to intense reactions, with a disturbance of public order being the result.”
“Despite the presence of a counter-protest [against Pegida], the demonstration was carried out safely, and there was no particular disorder,” the city said in a statement. Six others were arrested during the rally, according to Amsterdam city hall.
It was the second time Wagensveld was arrested this month. He was taken into custody last Saturday after donning a pig’s head hat during a protest against Islam in Ede.
Several at the rally in Amsterdam were also wearing similar hats.