Dutch remembrance ceremony disrupted

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The man arrested for disrupting the Dutch National Remembrance ceremony in Dam Square in Amsterdam on Tuesday has been in trouble with the police before. In the past he has been convicted of theft, violence and drug dealing. The man began screaming during the two minutes of silence, and panic broke out in the crowd.

Eyewitnesses say the man appeared to be dressed in orthodox Jewish clothing and was muttering to himself at first. Suddenly he cried out loudly. Someone in the crowd shouted that there was a bomb, after which several people were trampled underfoot as others tried to get away.

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Various eyewitnesses said they immediately thought of Queen's Day (30 April) last year, when a man drove his car into a crowd in Apeldoorn as people watched Queen Beatrix and other members of the royal family pass by in a bus.

Dozens of people were hurt in the stampede on Dam Square. Queen Beatrix and members of the royal family were rushed to safety. A number of people had to be carried away.

An announcement was quickly made that the ceremony would continue. The crowd greeted this with applause. The queen returned to the square to more applause. The two-minute silence then continued and was followed by the national anthem.

After the ceremony, Queen Beatrix, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, his wife Princess Máxima and caretaker Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende visited the injured, most of whom were treated for broken bones and grazes. A total of 63 people received medical attention. Interim Amsterdam Mayor Lodewijk Asscher said it was terribly sad that the remembrance ceremony had been disrupted.

The Amsterdam ceremony is held each year on 4 May to honour civilians and soldiers who have died in hostilities and during peace missions in the Netherlands and elsewhere in the world since the outbreak of World War II. Similar commemorations are held throughout the country.

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