Tensions over the EU's migrant crisis bubbled over in a Dutch town Saturday as far-right politician Geert Wilders handed out fake pepper spray, saying women must defend themselves from Muslim men.
Wilders, whose Party for Freedom (PVV) currently holds 12 seats in the 150-seat Dutch lower house, has seen his popularity soar on the back of the bitter refugee debate fueling his desire to be the next prime minister. On Saturday, following in the wake of sexual assaults on women on New Year's Eve in Cologne, Wilders used a rally in the western Dutch town of Spijkenisse to again push his blunt message against what he calls an "Islamic invasion." "We must close the borders," Wilders said handing out bottles pepper spray, which is illegal in the Netherlands, filled instead with red paint.
Women should be allowed to carry pepper spray, he said, to protect themselves from what he termed "Islamic testosterone bombs." But his radical rhetoric drew a counter demonstration from a few dozen women who shouted out: "Wilders is racist, no feminist." About 10 women were arrested at the protest, Dutch media said.
The Netherlands, a country of 17 million people, took in record numbers of asylum seekers in 2015. About 54,000 of the 1 million migrants who have traveled into Europe from the Middle East and Africa have been registered here.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte warned this week that the EU has only about two months to tackle the crisis before a new spike in migrant arrivals in the spring. Tensions have been simmering across the Netherlands as the government has sought to work with local provinces to find shelter for the thousands migrants already there.
Protests in some towns against planned refugee centers have flared into full-scale riots leading to arrests and some damage.
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