The Netherlands was taking stock after a weekend that saw dozens of violent protests across the country against the government’s anti-coronavirus measures. — Reuters pic
THE HAGUE, Nov 22 — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte today slammed three nights of unrest over anti-Covid measures as “pure violence’ by “idiots” and vowed to prosecute those responsible.
The Netherlands was taking stock after a weekend that saw dozens of violent protests across the country against the government’s anti-coronavirus measures.
At least 130 people have been arrested, four people wounded and several police officers injured since the violence first erupted on Friday, when a protest in the port city of Rotterdam turned into running battles between police and rioters.
The unrest in Rotterdam and in several cities around the country “is pure violence under the guise of protest,” Rutte told Dutch media today.
“I understand that there is a lot of tension in society because we have been dealing with the scourge of corona for so long,” Rutte said.
He said he would always defend the right to protest, but “I will never accept that idiots use pure violence,” he said.
The Netherlands went back into partial lockdown on November 13, and is considering so-called “2G measures,” allowing bars and cafes to ban people who have not been vaccinated.
On Friday evening, hundreds of rioters clashed with police in the Rotterdam city centre, with police firing at the rioters, wounding at least four people. Several police officers were also injured by rioters.
On Saturday protesters set fires in The Hague and elsewhere and on Sunday demonstrators threw fireworks and vandalised property in the northern cities of Groningen and Leeuwarden, Enschede in the east and Tilburg in the south.
Two football matches were abandoned on Saturday after fans threw fireworks and invaded pitches.
A football match in the city of Leeuwarden was also briefly disrupted Sunday after supporters, who are barred from games because of the Covid-19 restrictions, threw fireworks, Dutch media reported.
The Netherlands experienced its worst riots in 40 years earlier this year over a coronavirus curfew and some blamed the latest unrest on frustrated youths.
“They think that is the way to make themselves heard,” Mustafa Toprak, 31, told AFP. “It’s a bad way to do it, but hey it’s the young people who are going wild.”
“They are young people and they have had few freedoms because of Covid-19 for almost two years now, so yes I understand somehow—only I can’t approve,” said Claudia van der Wijngaard, 60.
Prosecutors meanwhile updated to four the number of people shot when police opened fire on Friday during what Rotterdam’s mayor called an “orgy of violence”. — AFP