Hundreds of people have walked hand in hand through Amsterdam to show solidarity with two gay men who were badly beaten at the weekend in the eastern city of Arnhem.
The peaceful march on Wednesday was part of a national outpouring of emotion over the beating of the married couple, who were attacked on the way home from a party in the early hours of Sunday morning. Jasper Vernes-Sewratan and Ronnie Sewratan-Vernes told police the confrontation started because they were holding hands.
Five suspects, all in their teens, would be charged on Thursday with causing serious bodily harm, prosecutors said, adding that they were still investigating the motive for the attack.
Marcher Marion van Hees said she had campaigned for gay rights during the 1960s. “I thought we were finished with it, that we had achieved it. But that is not the case, and that is very sad,” she said. “So I’m going back on to the barricades.”
Sjag Kozak, who married his husband in Amsterdam and has lived in the city for 21 years, said he wanted to show solidarity with the beaten men but also “show the world that it is possible to walk hand-in-hand in Amsterdam”.
Politicians had given prominence to the show of defiance, with Alexander Pechtold, leader of the Democrats D66 party, and his finance spokesman Wouter Koolmees arriving hand-in-hand for coalition talks in The Hague on Monday.
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.
The action was sparked by journalist Barbara Barend, who tweeted a call for “all men (straight and gay) please to just walk hand in hand”. The hashtag #allemannenhandinhand took off from there and was followed by images from the Netherlands and across the world of Dutch men showing solidarity.
Associated Press contributed to this report.