A strong police presence in various cities in the Netherlands seemed Tuesday evening to have prevented further unrest, after three nights of violent riots that have rocked the country since the establishment of a curfew on Saturday.
A strong police presence in various cities in the Netherlands seemed Tuesday evening to have prevented further unrest, after three nights of violent riots that have rocked the country since the establishment of a curfew on Saturday. Many police officers had been deployed in particular in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague, fearing the presence of other rioters who had come to challenge the curfew, imposed to fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. A “large group of young men” briefly gathered in an area of the Dutch capital, lighting fireworks, police said. The group was quickly dispersed, however, according to Dutch media.
In Rotterdam, at least 33 people have been arrested for including vandalism and violation of the curfew, port city police said on Twitter, but they did not find any major disturbances. Several cities had granted additional powers to the police after a new call on social networks to demonstrate Tuesday night against the curfew, the first in the Netherlands since World War II, as the government warned that ‘he would not backtrack on that measure.
Dutch police said earlier on Tuesday that they had made at least 184 arrests overnight, bringing the number of people in detention to more than 400 for their participation in the riots. At least ten police officers had been injured in the latest clashes with rioters, who looted shops and torched cars in several cities including Rotterdam, Amsterdam and The Hague on Monday evening, the worst unrest in the country for four decades.
Video: Covid-19 in the Netherlands: new night of riots in opposition to the curfew (France 24)
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Dutch authorities announced in mid-December a new series of measures to fight Covid-19, the strictest ever imposed since the start of the pandemic in the Netherlands, where more than 13,600 people have died from this disease. The government assured Tuesday that it would not waive the curfew despite the riots, Prime Minister Mark Rutte urging on Twitter to stop “criminal violence”. The latter had assured the day before that “99%” of the Dutch supported the restrictions.
Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra also said the people behind the riots were not legitimate protesters, saying “it’s the scum that does that”. “You do not capitulate in front of the people who break the windows of the stores”, he reacted Tuesday to the Dutch press agency ANP.
Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus also told the ANP that the government will maintain the curfew, in effect between 9 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. until at least February 9, deeming this measure necessary to stem the spread of the new coronavirus. Protest actions began on a small scale on Saturday evening and a Covid-19 testing center was set on fire in the village of Urk, in the conservative Protestant region known as the “Bible belt” in the north. They spread on Sunday and the police used water cannons, tear gas and mounted police in Eindhoven (south), Rotterdam or Amsterdam.
Police unions called the violence the worst riots in the Netherlands in four decades, since clashes between law enforcement and squatters who had been evicted from buildings they illegally occupied in the 1980s.
In ‘s-Hertogenbosch, in the south, where images showed bands of rioters looting shops Monday evening, traders barricaded the windows of their establishments on Tuesday in anticipation of possible new unrest, noted a journalist from the ‘AFP. In some towns, staunch supporters of football clubs such as FC Den Bosch have formed groups to defend stadiums and hospitals from looters. A few dozen fans patrolled the streets of Bois-le-Duc on Tuesday evening, chanting in Dutch “Save Den Bosch (Bois-le-Duc)”, according to an AFP journalist.
According to media reports, most of the rioters are a mix of activists opposed to containment and young people frustrated by increasingly harsh measures in a country where, until recently, the device to deal with the coronavirus was among the more lax in Europe. For Carsten de Dreu, a professor of social psychology at Leiden University, the riots reflect the “pent-up frustration” of some people, in a context of “limited freedom and uncertainty”. Neighboring Belgium, where a curfew is also in place, feared an overflow of unrest after calls on social networks to demonstrate on Saturday in towns near the Dutch border.