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Home Dutch News Thousands make racket at Van Gogh rally

Thousands make racket at Van Gogh rally

Published on 03/11/2004

3 November 2004

AMSTERDAM — An estimated 20,000 people took part in “seven-minutes of noise” in central Amsterdam on Tuesday evening to honour outspoken filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who was shot and stabbed to death earlier in the day.



The sign reads: stop all fascists.

The impromptu memorial service was announced by Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen hours after the killing as it became apparent that the assassination was likely connected to Van Gogh’s short film Submission.

Van Gogh and Somali-born MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali had received several death threats after the screening in August of the film that criticised the Koran for allegedly sanctioning domestic violence against women in Islamic societies.

The government sent a letter to Parliament on Tuesday evening in which it said the police were giving weight to the theory the 26-year-old Moroccan-Dutch man arrested for the killing came from a “radical Islamic background”.

The suspect was not one of the key 150 people in the Netherlands the security service (AIVD) believe have links to terrorist groups, the letter said, but the suspect had “contacts” with these people.

Detectives are also trying to establish if other people were involved in the assassination.

Later on Tuesday, an estimated 20,000 people thronged into Dam Square in Central Amsterdam to take part in the rally to honour Van Gogh and to express their support for freedom of expression.

Mayor Cohen asked the public to make a “racket” and an “ear-deafening noise” to loudly express their abhorrence at the killing and to support free speech.

Although the rally was announced while most people were at work, many came with candles, signs and anything capable of making a loud noise. These included horns, drums, pots and pans and anything that could generate a “racket”.

The focal point of the rally was “seven minutes of noise” during which a performer banged a large drum on a stage and the public reciprocated by shouting, clapping and using their props to make as much noise as possible.

At the end of the rally, the public observed a two-minute silence in Van Gogh’s honour.



A big screen relayed the speeches to the crowd.

Cohen also addressed the crowd and said a purely silent vigil would not have been in keeping with Van Gogh’s strident nature.

He said Van Gogh — whom he likened to Voltaire — was an outspoken man who had had disagreements with a lot of people, including the mayor himself. “And that must be allowed,” Cohen said.

Immigration minister Rita Verdonk — who has implemented policies to expel 26,000 unsuccessful applicants for asylum — was booed by sections of the crowd before and during her speech. But many people clapped politely.

Her ministry is also responsible for introducing compulsory integration exams for immigrants.

She said Van Gogh often expressed his arguments in rude and course terms, but freedom of expression was the cornerstone of Dutch society.



The mood remained good-humoured despite outrage at the killing.

Verdonk said everyone had to decide “which side they were on” following the murder and that several Muslim and minority groups had chosen to condemn the killing publicly.

Meanwhile, the debate continues about whether Van Gogh should have had bodyguards as Hirsi Ali does.

In the letter to Parliament, Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner and Interior Minister Johan Remkes revealed that Van Gogh was given security as a precautionary measure on several occasions in recent months.

From August 28-30, police monitored Van Gogh’s house after the film Submission was screened.

Extra measures were also taken on September 16 when Van Gogh took part in a panel discussion programme because a group had threatened to disrupt the evening, the letter said.

Minister Remkes added: “As a government and a society we must all make clear we will not tolerate this cowardly and violent desecration of the right to free speech”.

Remkes, who is in charge of policing in the Netherlands, also cautioned the public to remain calm as he said there was “a risk of stigmatisation of certain groups in society”.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news, Theo van Gogh