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Thousands protest COVID measures in Amsterdam

January 2, 2022

There were some clashes between riot police and protesters, as thousands defied a ban on large gatherings in the Dutch capital.

A protester shows a sign reading "Vrijheid" or "Freedom" to a riot police as thousands of people defied a ban to gather and protest the Dutch government's coronavirus lockdown measures, in Amsterdam
People in white overalls and white masks held up signs saying 'Freedom'Image: Peter Dejong/AP/picture alliance

Thousands of people in Amsterdam defied a ban on large gatherings on Sunday as they took to the streets to show their displeasure at restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

Protesters congregated in the city center before marching toward a park in the Dutch capital where a rally of the populist Forum for Democracy party took place.

Brief clashes

A small group of protesters briefly clashed with riot police as officers made efforts to clear the crowd from Museum Square.

Police hold a demonstrator to the ground in Amsterdam
There were reports of at least one person being detainedImage: Peter Dejong/AP/picture alliance

Most people complied with the call to disperse, given via loudspeaker, from the square in front of the Rijksmuseum.

Before officers moved in, some people near the Van Gogh Museum unfurled a banner that read: "Less repression, more care." 

A group of people in white overalls and white masks held up signs, including one that said: "It's not about a virus, it's about control'' on one side and "Freedom" on the other.

One person in attendance held up a "Trump 2024" flag.

A protester raises a "Trump" flag at a protest against COVID restrictions in Amsterdam, Netherlands
At least one protester raised a 'Trump 2024' flag at the protestImage: ANP/picture alliance

Case numbers falling

The Netherlands is currently in a strict lockdown, which is expected to last until at least mid-January.

Despite the rapid spread of the highly contagious omicron variant, coronavirus infection rates in the Netherlands have been gradually decreasing in recent weeks.

The cases have been on the decline since the country reintroduced lockdown measures in November, before tightening them further during the holiday season.

The local government in Amsterdam had banned Sunday's protest, saying police had indications some protesters might be planning "violence." 

The municipality later issued an emergency order for people to leave the square. Riot police marched across the grass to clear the area, sending the demonstrators into nearby streets.

jsi/rs (AP, dpa)