The populist far-right politician Geert Wilders kicked off his election campaign in Spijkenisse, a suburban town near the port of Rotterdam, on Saturday morning. His supporters struggled to catch a glimpse of the Freedom Party leader as reporters, many of them journalists for foreign media outlets, scrambled for access. Some of his followers were pushed to the ground by the swell of journalists and security forces.
Mr Wilders called his campaign “historic” and, in an echo of Donald Trump‘s successful US election campaign, asked his voters to “make the Netherlands ours again”. He reiterated a controversial statement on Moroccan immigrants to the Netherlands, calling them “Moroccan scum” – a subtle variation on the “fewer, fewer Moroccans” chant that saw him convicted of inciting discrimination late last year.
“Once again not all are scum but there is a lot of Moroccan scum in Holland who makes the streets unsafe, mostly young people,” he said. “If you want to regain your country, if you want to make the Netherlands for the people of the Netherlands, your own home again, then you can only vote for one party.”
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Ieg van Haperen, a 66-year-old former mailroom worker, said she recognised herself in his comments. “I don’t feel safe opening my own front door at night,” the Spijkenisse resident explained, accusing young foreigners of making her feel uncomfortable.
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