Watch: Dozens arrested in Rotterdam as anti-curfew disturbances continue
Dutch police detained more than 150 people in a third night of unrest in cities across the Netherlands, where roaming groups of rioters set fires, threw rocks and looted stores in violence triggered by a night curfew aimed at curbing the coronavirus.
The nation's first curfew since World War Two followed a warning by the National Institute for Health (RIVM) over a new wave of infections due to the "British variant" of the virus, and was imposed despite weeks of declines in new infections.
Ten police were injured in the port city of Rotterdam, where 60 rioters were detained overnight, Dutch news agency ANP said on Tuesday.
Two photographers were hurt after being targeted by rock-throwing gangs, one in the capital, Amsterdam, and another in the nearby town of Haarlem, broadcaster NH Nieuws said.
In the capital's east, at least nine people were held after clashes with riot police. Store windows were smashed and an angry group attacked a police van, witnesses said.
Local media reported calls online for further violent protests, prompting police in the southern town of Goes to arrest four youths on suspicion of using social media to incite unrest.
Nijmegen was among a number of places issuing emergency decrees to keep people away from certain locations for fear of more riots, with at least one store in the eastern city shown on Dutch television as being boarded up as a precaution.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte condemned the "criminal violence" on Monday after protesters against a coronavirus curfew went on the rampage in several cities over the weekend.
Police used water cannon, tear gas and mounted troops to disperse rioters after protests were banned and demonstrators asked to go home. Around 250 people have been arrested.
Although the Netherlands has seen legal demonstrations against coronavirus restrictions for months, this was the first case of widespread violence. Rioters torched a car and bicycles set alight, looted shops and – to public horror – pelted windows at a hospital in Enschede with stones.
The riots were sparked by a national curfew preventing people from leaving their homes from 9pm to 4.30am, the first since the Second World War.
It was voted through by a parliamentary majority even though the government last week stepped down over a domestic scandal.
Other protests have reportedly been planned for upcoming Sundays.
Trouble flared first in the small fishing village of Urk on Saturday night, when riot police were called in after youths set a drive-in coronavirus test centre on fire.
On Sunday, protests spread from Amsterdam to Eindhoven, and then 12 other locations by the evening, including The Hague.
“The violence that we saw last weekend is unacceptable,” said Mr Rutte, who is acting in a caretaker capacity until a March general election.
“This has nothing to do with protesting: it is criminal violence, and we will treat it as such. I am convinced that 99 per cent of the Netherlands is keeping to the rules and the curfew. We are not taking all of these measures for fun. We are fighting against a virus, and it is the virus taking our freedom.”
Mayor John Jorritsma of Eindhoven, where protesters who were told to disperse pulled knives, batons, Molotov cocktails and other weapons on police, reacted most violently, saying the rioters were the “scum of the earth”.
He said on Sunday: “I am afraid that if this is the path we are on together, we are on the way to civil war. Soon we will have to send in the army... Has our society fallen so far?”
He claimed that groups came into Eindhoven with the express intention of causing trouble. A major police investigation was launched in the city on Monday.
Chief executive of the Dutch Police Association Koen Simmers told the Nieuwsuur television programme that the riots were the worst in 40 years and expressed concerns this was a sign of days or weeks of unrest to come.
“This brought back the days of squatters’ riots, and in Eindhoven it got so crazy that police were simply pelted with knives and attacked. It wasn’t about anything any more,” he said.
In Venlo, where protesters threw fireworks at police, emergency laws have been put in place until Feb 9 meaning that police do not have to provide a reason to stop and search people or ask for proof of identity.
But Ab Gietelink, a protester who has previously taken Amsterdam city to court over facemask rules and said his brother was at the protest, said he was afraid that violence would escalate.
“The aim of the protests is completely clear: to stop the lockdown and specifically the curfew,” he said. “There have been organised demonstrations since last April, but the government has undermined them by banning them or imposing absurd requests like a limit of 100 people, standing on spots 1.5m apart and wearing facemasks.
"The government, mayors and police made the demonstrations impossible so people came together anyway, to drink coffee, police told them to go and then started violently chasing them with water cannon, tear gas and mounted police.
"Then a group came forward, which wasn’t really part of the demonstration, to resist. A pacifist, peaceful organisation, because of the government’s escalation, became a kind of violent uprising.
“I’m afraid that this will only escalate.”
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