Protests, excitement greet Bush visit
9 May 2005, AMSTERDAM — The first ever visit of US President George W. Bush to the Netherlands was greeted with excitement and protest actions around the country during the weekend.
9 May 2005
AMSTERDAM — The first ever visit of US President George W. Bush to the Netherlands was greeted with excitement and protest actions around the country during the weekend.
Preceded by his reserve jet that always lands first, Bush arrived at the Maastricht Aachen Airport on presidential jet Air Force One at about 7.11pm on Saturday.
A quarter of an hour later, he appeared with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, both of whom waved to the gathered US and Dutch personnel of the US embassy in the Netherlands.
Excitement had been noticeable even among experienced journalists waiting for the president's arrival, news agency ANP reported.
Bush was officially welcomed at the airport by Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Ben Bot and the US ambassador to the Netherlands, Clifford M. Sobel. Afterwards, he shook hands with embassy staff and he briefly lifted a baby into the air.
At a considerable distance from the runway, a group of protestors gathered to demonstrate against Bush's arrival. The 'noise protest' saw activists use horns, drums and whistles, but the US president did not hear their efforts.
Shortly after his arrival, Bush departed for his hotel in an armoured limousine with a convoy of 30 cars and 12 vans, including a Dutch ambulance. The convoy was led at high-speed by Dutch motorcycle police officers.
The route was completely sealed off as Dutch soldiers brandishing Diemaco rifles stood along the route to ward off protestors. A half hour later, life started returning to normal in the province of Limburg.
The president stayed in the hotel Château St. Gerlach in Houthem on Saturday night before attending a commemorative service at the US war cemetery in Margraten in Limburg on Sunday morning.
He departed again at about midday on Sunday for Moscow to attend a ceremony on Monday commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.
The short 17-hour visit to the Netherlands was marked by protests, highlighted by the arrest of six peace activists near the Houthem hotel on Sunday morning. The protestors were released several hours later.
Jacques van Eck, Maastricht's chief public prosecutor, said the activists were arrested for entering an area sealed off to the public. The protestors said they came within 200m of the hotel.
A spokesman from the Vredesburo (Peace Bureau) in Heerlen said the activists were conducting a civilian inspection for the "suitcase with the buttons to activate nuclear weapons".
In total, police arrested nine protestors throughout Bush's visit, including a man who was detained in Maastricht on Saturday for pulling up a manhole cover in the Lage Barakken.
Two people were arrested at the noise protest at the Maastricht airport, but were later released. Van Eck said the detainees had not committed any crime.
In other protests, activists took to the streets in Amsterdam to demonstrate against the war in Iraq and the threat of further US-led wars against other nations, such as Iran.
The Dutch Stop Bush campaign also protested against the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and alleged human rights violations in Guantanamo Bay.
Police estimated that about 1,000 people participated in the Amsterdam protest, while the organisation said 8,000 people took to the streets.
In Maastricht, the anti-Bush protest passed off without incident, as it did in Amsterdam. The protestors gathered on the Plein 1992 to demonstrate against the general policy of President Bush.
According to organisers, a maximum of 500 people were involved in the protest, while police estimated that just 150 were involved in the manifestation. Protestors denounced Bush as a murderer.
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2005]
Subject: Dutch news