Dutch 'reject budget cuts': 200,000 protest in capital
2 October 2004 , AMSTERDAM — Police estimated at least 200,000 people turned out in Amsterdam on Saturday to protest against the Dutch Cabinet's budget cuts. It has been described as the biggest protest in the Dutch capital in two decades.
2 October 2004
AMSTERDAM — Police estimated at least 200,000 people turned out in Amsterdam on Saturday to protest against the Dutch Cabinet's budget cuts. It has been described as the biggest protest in the Dutch capital in two decades.
Police said Museumplein was crammed full of people and thousands of protestors also took part in a march from Dam Square through the city centre streets to Museumplein.
Trade union confederation FNV estimated that 250,000 people were involved in the demonstration.
It was the biggest protest held in Amsterdam since 1981, when anti-nuclear demonstrations peaked, French news agency AFP reported.
The Dutch government unveiled EUR 2.5 billion in budget cuts on 21 September, asserting that the stringent austerity measures were vital to restore long term economic strength.
The Dutch institute for budget information (NIBUD) has estimated that all residents will confront reduced purchasing power next year.
Unions are particularly concerned about cuts to social security — such as WW unemployment benefits and the WAO worker disability scheme — plus the abolition of fiscally attractive early retirement schemes. Healthcare cuts have also outraged trade unions.
Under a rolling industrial action campaign, the Amsterdam protest was to be the highlight of the campaign and the turnout of people did not disappoint.
Protestors wore T-shirts with slogans such as "our cup is overflowing" and "the Netherlands deserves better". By 2pm, some people started to depart again for Amsterdam Central Station.
But many more were still making there way to the Museumplein and more protestors were also arriving at the city's main rail station.
The crowd was so vast that people arriving at Amsterdam Central Station were being advised against going to Museumplein. Large television screens said: "The Museumplein is over full. For your safety, you are advised not to go there!"
Traffic in the Dutch capital was also reduced to chaos with almost every bus, tram and metro grinding to a standstill in the vicinity of Museumplein. Police said traffic was also gridlocked in other parts of the city.
FNV chief Lodewijk de Waal praised a "fantastic turnout" and thanked the public amid loud cheers. He said the protest demonstrated the need for talks with the cabinet and if it seriously wanted to negotiate, it could initiate talks on Sunday.
De Waal also said unions would continue to stage industrial action in coming weeks in industry sectors such as healthcare, public transport, metal, construction and the municipal public service, newspaper De Volkskrant reported.
CNV Christian trade union chief Doekle Terpstra was also impressed by the demonstration: "This makes you silent. The Netherlands wants another policy".
Leaders of the Dutch opposition parties urged on Dam Square and via video screens on Museumplein to continue striking against the cabinet's economising measures.
They said earlier protests — such as in Rotterdam where up to 60,000 protested on 20 September — had succeeded given the decision by the cabinet to reduce its budget cuts on Wednesday.
They referred to the cabinet's positive reaction to the EUR 1 billion in reduced budget cuts unveiled by the coalition government Christian Democrat CDA, Liberal VVD and Democrat D66 parliamentary factions.
And the leader of main opposition party Labour PvdA, Wouter Bos, said he expected further reductions to the budget cuts if trade unions maintained the pressure.
[Copyright Expatica News + Novum Nieuws 2004]
Subject: Dutch news