Amsterdam boosts security for Gay Pride canal parade

AFP , Thursday 4 Aug 2016

Special forces will be deployed in Amsterdam on Saturday when hundreds of thousands are expected to flock to the annual Gay Pride parade along its famous canals, police said.

The colourful climax of two weeks of celebrations in the Dutch capital comes amid heightened security in The Netherlands, and follows a series of attacks in European cities in recent months.

Some 80 decorated boats are expected to float along Amsterdam's historic and picturesque canals watched by packed crowds from the banks.

This year the city is also hosting the EuroPride event and authorities warned there "will be substantially more police present than last year" during the regular annual Gay Pride celebrations.

No specific threat has been made against the city or the gay pride celebrations, authorities said, adding the first 10 days marked by over 300 events had gone well.

But in "the interests of safety, several measures will be taken over the weekend," Amsterdam city hall said in a statement Wednesday.

"There will be more a visible police presence in the city, with the deployment of special units."

Special traffic measures have also been put in place to ensure the centre's crowded, and narrow streets are kept "easily accessible for emergency services."

Mayor Eberhard van der Laan welcomed the parade as "an important event for Amsterdam, because we are celebrating that we have the freedom to be who we want to be."

He added in a statement that "a lot of hard work had gone into making it a big, cosy and safe festival."

The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage and the Gay Pride event has become an annual fixture in the free-wheeling city.

Following the Orlando mass shooting in June when 49 people were killed in a gun attack on the Pulse gay nightclub, hundreds of mourners held vigils in Amsterdam.

Security at Schiphol airport, just outside the city, was tightened last Saturday following an unspecified threat and remains in place. Police are carrying out thorough checks of all vehicles entering the complex.

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