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Thousands Gather for Dutch Politician's Funeral - 2002-05-10


Thousands of people turned out for the funeral of slain Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn. In an unusual display of emotion in the normally somber nation, people took to the streets crying and chanting as they bid farewell to the far-right politician, whose rise and violent fall has deeply shaken the Netherlands.

The mood was somber in Pim Fortuyn's home city of Rotterdam. Tens-of-thousands of mourners lined the streets to pay their respects to the slain political leader. People cried, clapped and threw flowers on the white hearse carrying Mr. Fortuyn's body, as it made its way through the city, past his house, and to a 16th century church for the hour-and-a-half-long service.

Attending the funeral were the politician's family and friends, the prime minister and other politicians, as well as Mr. Fortuyn's two dogs, Kenneth and Carla. His younger brother gave a eulogy saying he was not an extreme rightist, but a democrat and socialist who wanted to dedicate his life to serving his country.

Everything about Pim Fortuyn was unusual, from the man himself to his murder to the public outpouring of grief rarely seen in this reserved country. Although a political novice, Mr. Fortuyn changed the landscape with his outspoken style, in a country where the terms of debate rarely reach the extremes. Flashy, confrontational, and openly gay, Pim Fortuyn clearly struck a chord with Dutch voters, campaigning on a platform of zero-tolerance for crime and immigration. He also called Islam a "backward culture."

The man police are holding in custody for Pim Fortuyn's murder is an environmental and animal rights activist, identified as Volkert van der Graaf. In addition to finding ammunition in his home that matched shell casings found at the crime scene, prosecutors now say Mr. van der Graaf may have been plotting against other members of Mr. Fortuyn's party. The names of three of them, along with maps of their neighborhoods, were reportedly found in the suspect's car.

Security for the three has been strengthened in the days preceding next week's general elections, which are going ahead as scheduled.

Back in Rotterdam, the crowds became more soccer-like as Pim Fortuyn's coffin was carried from the church. The crowd chanted his name, saying, "We will go on." One sign read: Democracy cost a Fortuyn, which in Dutch, also means, democracy cost a fortune.

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