Liberation Day Meets Free Speech Zones

Friday, May 06, 2005

Liberation Day Meets Free Speech Zones

Perhaps I'll write in coming days about the very moving observance of Remembrance Day on Wednesday, when the Prime Minister spoke eloquently of the value of freedom and our need to remember those who have fallen in its defense, and of Liberation Day yesterday, when the Dutch celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Nazis' surrender at Wageningen.

But considering the outpouring of emotion over the precious freedom that the Dutch enjoy today, preparations for President Bush's visit this weekend strike me as a bit, shall we say, anomalous.

Intense security measures have been taken in Margraten, Maastricht and Valkenburg, where city mayors have imposed emergency ordinances.

The bylaws will be in force from 8am on Friday to 4pm on Sunday and are considered necessary due to a serious fear of "the disruption of public order, partly due to announced large-scale demonstrations by various groups."

Protestors will be locked up in the Overmaze prison in Maastricht if they breach the ordinances as the police intend to apply the regulations strictly....

As part of the security measures, more than 500m of screening was erected on Friday to block the hotel St Gerlach in Houthem — where Bush will sleep on Saturday night — from local roads. Police posts were also set up.

Dutch soldiers previously rolled 3km of 1m-high barbed wire out around the hotel on Thursday....

The Department of Waterways and Public Works has fences ready at the A2 and A79 exits to block both [freeways] to traffic for several hours over the weekend.

The war graves cemetery in Margraten was sealed off to traffic on Thursday.

US security personnel have been issued with a permit enabling them to also carry weapons in the Limburg area....

Meanwhile, a national action group was granted approval on Friday to carry out a 'noise protest' at Maastricht Aachen Airport on Saturday night when Bush flies into the Netherlands.

However, a police escort will transport the protestors by bus to the airport and a maximum of 100 protestors may attend....

Even these measures were apparently not enough for the U.S. government.
Valkenburg Mayor Constant Nuytens said the US wanted to close the A79 for two weeks, but that this has been restricted to just a few hours.
The guy is visiting overnight, but a freeway was supposed to be shut down for two weeks? I guess the Secret Service decided to give the Dutch a break; they are, after all, part of the Coalition of the Willing. Makes you wonder what the demands would be in a country that wasn't with us, but with the terrorists.

Anyway, I'm sure the other stop on Bush's itinerary will take an approach to dissent and free speech that he will approve of. Dubya flies from here to Moscow to gaze once more into the eyes of his soulmate Vladimir Putin.

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