34 arrested on fringes of far-right protest in Amsterdam
Dutch police on Saturday arrested 34 people, including five English citizens, as they intercepted groups of "anti-fascists" seeking to confront far-right sympathisers of anti-Islam MP Geert Wilders.
Eighteen, including the five English citizens, were arrested for not carrying valid identification, fined 60 euros (84 dollars) and freed, police spokesman Rob van der Veen told AFP.
"Fourteen were arrested for public violence, remain in custody, and will appear in court soon," he said, refusing to divulge the nature of their crimes.
Most of those arrested had been trying to make their way towards a gathering of about 50 supporters of the far-right English Defence League.
They were holding a legal, pro-Wilders picket near the Sloterdijk train station northwest of the Dutch capital.
Police also stopped and rerouted a metro with dozens of "football hooligans" on their way to the picketing venue, "to prevent a confrontation" between the two groups, a statement said.
The EDL picket was organised to show support for Wilders, who is being prosecuted in the Netherlands for inciting hatred and discrimination against Muslims.
Wilders, who has distanced himself from the demonstration, risks up to a year in jail or a 7,600-euro fine for comments made in his campaign to "stop the Islamisation of the Netherlands".
Permission was given for the EDL picket to be held in an isolated area near Sloterdijk, rather than the city centre where it would have been harder to manage, after police received information that English and Dutch football hooligans were planning to use the occasion for "hard confrontation".
A website for Ajax supporters had urged football fans to confront the EDL on Saturday "because we don't tolerate racism and fascism in our city"
Several "anti-fascist" groupings held counter-pickets around Amsterdam, including a peaceful gathering on a central square of about 1,000 supporters of the Platform Against Xenophobia.
Van der Veen said one person was apprehended for carrying pepper spray, which is illegal, and another for "offensive" utterances. Both received summonses to appear in court.
Amsterdam police, which had turned out in numbers for Saturday's demonstrations, said there were "no major incidents".
© 2010 AFP