Amsterdam protesters still in custody after rushing towards Emmanuel Macron

The two protesters who were arrested while trying to confront French President Emmanuel Macron at the Amsterdam Science Park on Wednesday were still in custody late Thursday morning, said their attorney, Willem Jebbink of Jebbink Soeteman Advocaten. Macron did not press charges against the two, Jebbink said.

They were identified by a police spokesperson as a 21-year-old man and a 24-year-old woman, both from Amsterdam. The pair ran towards the French president and shouted messages at him in French connected to the recent protests in France against the increase of the retirement age from 62 to 64. They were subsequently detained by the police for disturbing the peace and for unspecified damages. This happened at Macron’s arrival, moments before he visited the Quantum Gases and Quantum Information Lab at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) with King Willem-Alexander, where they discussed the Franco-Dutch collaboration in the field of quantum technology.

Authorities are expected to decide on Thursday whether the man and the woman will be released from custody. Jebbink said he believes that the two have been arrested on “frivolous grounds.”

He said, “They were carrying a banner that they wanted to display in Macron’s sight.” Jebbink added, “It is, therefore, crystal clear that their action falls under the freedom of involvement and expression. More importantly, the prosecutor confirmed to me today that Macron did not press charges. It is then hardly conceivable that my clients could be successfully prosecuted for ’violence against an internationally protected person.’”

Jebbink said the banner contained a reference to Louis XVI, who was king at the time of the French Revolution and was beheaded in 1793. The protest chant that the protesters sang is called On est là, or We Are Here. Both expressions are often used in France during anti-Macron demonstrations.

On Tuesday there was also a protest during a speech by Macron in The Hague. The demonstrators labeled Macron the “president of violence and hypocrisy.” The protests during Macron’s State visit to the Netherlands should be possible, said Prime Minister Mark Rutte, but at the same time he said he was not particularly happy about them. “We are the hosts, so you don’t want that,” he said at a joint press conference on Wednesday evening.

“I fully agree that demonstrations must be allowed, but it must be decent,” said the prime minister. “There were also moments that were really dangerous and I disapprove of that,” he added.

The French president said it is “normal in this day and age to get this kind of reaction.” Sometimes you have to make “bold decisions” as the head of a government, he said. He made it clear that he wanted to continue with his reforms in France despite the fierce protests against them.

Macron’s last event during the two-day State visit was a stop at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. He and his wife, Brigitte, joined King Willem-Alexander, Queen Máxima, Rutte, and museum director Taco Dibbits on a visit to the museum’s lauded Vermeer exhibition.

Reporting by ANP and NL Times

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