Straight men across the Netherlands held hands this week to show solidarity with a gay couple who were brutally beaten in Arnhem — an attack that shook a nation that has long-prided itself on its tolerance.
The outpouring of support came after the married couple, Jasper Vernes-Sewratan, 35, and Ronnie Sewratan-Vernes, 31, were attacked by a group of teenagers for holding hands in the early hours of Sunday morning.
According to a statement the Arnhem police posted on Facebook, the couple were beaten by teenagers wielding bolt cutters and sustained injuries including broken teeth and bruised ribs
“That this can still happen in 2017 is incomprehensible and hard to understand,” said Vernes-Sewratan.
Hundreds took to the streets of Amsterdam on Wednesday evening in a peaceful march, as part of a national outpouring of emotion, walking hand-in-hand to express solidarity with the victims.
Others showed their support for the couple by holding hands on social media, a movement sparked by journalist Barbara Barend after she appealed on Twitter for men, whether straight or gay, to walk hand-in-hand using the hashtag, #allemannenhandinhand.
— Raymond Braun (@raymondbraun) April 5, 2017
— Lise Gregoire (@LiseGvH) April 3, 2017
Hundreds heeded her call and posted photographs of themselves doing just that, including Dutch deputy prime minister and finance minister as well as other politicians, actors, police officers, soldiers and athletes.
Two high-profile politicians — Alexander Pechtold, leader of the liberal-democratic party D66, and Wouter Koolmees, a lawmaker in the party —arrived hand-in-hand for coalition talks in The Hague on Monday.
The beating has touched a raw nerve and caused particular outrage in the Netherlands, which has long-prided itself on its tolerance. The capital, Amsterdam, has been a haven for sexual minorities for centuries, and it has marketed itself as the ‘gay capital of Europe.’
— frerieke (@frerieke) April 5, 2017
Homosexuality was removed from the Dutch criminal code in 1811, and the Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalise gay marriage, with the first ceremony in 2001.
The Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, condemned the attack. “It’s terrible what happened. Awful,” he said, adding that addressing homophobic violence would be a “top priority” for his new government.
— Dutch Embassy London (@NLinUK) April 4, 2017
Vernes-Sewratan told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS that he and his husband rarely held hands in public for fear of provoking an attack. “But we’d had a nice evening, it was late, and we thought we were alone,” he said.
Prosecutors said six teenage suspects would be charged with serious bodily harm.