Two male Dutch lawmakers arrived hand in hand to a government meeting on Monday, in a powerful show of support for a gay couple who were brutally attacked over the weekend.
Alexander Pechtold, leader of the liberal D66 party, and his party colleague Wouter Koolmees, made the symbolic gesture right before a meeting to discuss the formation of a new Dutch government.
“We think it is quite normal in the Netherlands to express who you are,” said Pechtold, according to the Dutch news outlet DutchNews.nl.
Pechtold and Koolmees were among several politicians who responded to a call from a Dutch journalist, Barbara Berend, for men to hold hands in public as a show of solidarity for the gay couple who were attacked as they walked hand in hand through the Dutch city of Arnhem on Sunday.
The hashtag #allemannenhandinhand, which translates to “all men hand in hand,” was trending in the Netherlands as Twitter users voiced their support for the protest, and male citizens — both public and private, gay and straight — shared photos of themselves holding hands.
One of the victims of the attack, Ronnie Sewratan-Vernes, 31, expressed his gratitude for the support on Twitter.
Sewratan-Vernes, who lost four teeth and suffered a split lip in the attack, reportedly told the Dutch public broadcasting company NOS: “We don’t usually do that, holding hands in public, for the very reason that we don’t want to provoke people. But we’d had a nice evening, it was late and we thought we were alone.”
DutchNews.nl reports that the country’s leading gay rights organization, the COC, has called for the coalition working to form the next Dutch government to crack down on the rising homophobic attacks.
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A local gay organization, Gay Hospitality Arnhem, released a statement denouncing the attack. “We must not let go of this injustice. The Netherlands is a country where everyone should be seen, regardless of orientation, gender, ethnicity, religion or skin color! Holding hands should not create fear, showing affection should not run the risk of a maimed face.”