March called off at the last minute

The Municipality placed black-clad barriers as a precaution at the Al Forquaan mosque. Photo credit: OmroepBrabant

The anti-Islamic group, Pegida, called off its ‘Ramadan tour’ that was to be held on Monday. This, 45 minutes before it was scheduled to start.

The group let the Municipality know that they did not agree with the Council’s security measures. According to the Municipality, Pegida were aware of these measures for more than a week. “It is unfortunate,” reads a press release from the Council. The Council says they, in close consultation with the police, made every effort to facilitate Pegida in their right to demonstrate. “This right is laid out in the Dutch constitution,” reads the statement.

The place, time, and acceptable noise level were known to the march’s organisers since the decision was issued on 29 March. They were also not allowed to hold a barbeque, due to safety risk. “This is a lie,” says Pegida leader, Edwin Wagensveld, in a video released yesterday in reaction to the Municipality’s press release. In it, they say the police advised that fire could be used as a weapon if things escalated.

Large crowd was expected

 It seems the Council and police reckoned on a large number of people attending the march. During the demonstration, about 150 visitors to the mosque would have been present on the square in front of the Al-Fourqaan mosque. This number was expected to swell to 700 for evening prayers. Pegida would have brought along 50 demonstrators.

A day before the event, the Praktische Anti Fascisten (PAF), an anti-fascist group, also reported that they would have 30 people at the march. More unannounced counter-demonstration also had to be taken into account during planning.

According to the Eindhoven Municipality, talks about how the demonstration would proceed were held with Pegida on multiple occasions. Parallel to these discussions, extensive discussions were held with, among others, the mosque boards and local residents. “The mayor of Eindhoven had to uphold public order and safety. At the same times, the measures would not affect people’s right to demonstrate and the right to freedom of expression”, reads the press release.

The fences were the problem

According to Pegida, the placement of the barriers was a problem. They, therefore, cancelled the demonstration, 45 minutes before it was to start via an app message. According to Omroep Brabant, Pegida’s Edwin Wagensveld was not available for comment. “He states in a message on Twitter that Pegida would not demonstrate in a kind of cage with a 2m-high fence around it,” the local media outlet reported.

The demonstrators were also not be allowed to make much noise. “You cannot demonstrate in such a situation,” says Wagensveld. The Council says the main reason for these fences is to ensure a safe environment for the demonstrators and to protect the neighbourhood and mosque visitors. However, according to the video released by Pegida yesterday, the erection of these fences was not part of the decision they received from the Council a week ago.

“Pegida made a clear statement, declaring the start of the “Ramadan tour” with Eindhoven as the first city to be visited. The chance of a counter-demonstration – even an unannounced one – cannot be ignored,” the Municipality goes on to say.

The fences and traffic restrictions around the mosque were removed at 20:00 on Monday. The police presence was also scaled down.

Photo: Omroep Brabant

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