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Dutch COVID curfew protests turn violent

January 24, 2021

Hundreds of opponents of the first nighttime curfew in the Netherlands since World War II have clashed with police in Eindhoven, Amsterdam and elsewhere, resulting in scores of arrests.

Protestors, some with, some without masks, clash with police bearing shields
On Eindhoven's central square, opponents of coronavirus restrictions clashed with policeImage: Rob Engelaar/ANP/AFP/Getty Images

Clashes broke out on Sunday in Amsterdam, Eindhoven and Stein, a small city near the Dutch-Belgium border, over the introduction of a nationwide curfew to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.

The violence came hours after a group of young people torched a viral testing center overnight in Urk, a fishing industry city northeast of the Dutch capital.

Security forces in both cities used water cannon as well as batons, horses and dogs — and in Eindhoven tear gas — to quell the protests.

Vehicles were also set ablaze and shops plundered near Eindhoven's main railway station, reported regional broadcaster Omroep Brabant.

Dutch rail company NS urged travelers to avoid the Eindhoven station.

A police officer holds dogs during a protest in Amsterdam
Police in Amsterdam were deployed on horseback and with dogs to control the crowdImage: Eva Plevier/REUTERS

Defiance in Amsterdam

Police intervened on Amsterdam's central Museum Square, where hundreds of protesters gathered, reported public television broadcaster NOS — despite the pandemic rules limiting outdoor contacts to no more than two people.

Fearing a riot or a disease-spreading event, Mayor Femke Halsema had designated the square as a "high-risk zone" and gave police the power to preemptively frisk people for weapons.

Nationwide, more than 100 people were detained Sunday, police said.

And in Stein — near Maastricht close to Belgium — clashes with police occurred as they broke up an illegal party reportedly attended by 100 people.

The coronavirus test center in Urk ablaze
Youths broke into the test center in the town of Urk before setting it ablazeImage: ProNews Producties/ANP/picture alliance

In addition, more than 3,600 fines were handed out and 25 persons arrested on Saturday night as the Netherlands' first nighttime curfew of the pandemic came into force to rein in a more transmissible variant of the coronavirus. Alleged curfew violators were handed fines of €95 ($116) each.

Testing center set on fire

In Urk, a fishing industry city of 21,000 residents, on Saturday night, dozens of people hurled stones and fireworks at police.

A group of youths set fire to an Urk coronavirus testing center, and pepper spray was used against reporters of the public broadcaster NOS.

On Sunday, municipal officials deplored the overnight rioting. "This is not only unacceptable but also a slap in the face, especially for the local health authority staff who do all they can at the test center to help people from Urk," they said.

Local authorities added that the curfew would be strictly enforced for the rest of the coming week.

Amsterdam fights against mass tourism

Journalist Michel Kerres told DW that the collapse of the Dutch government 10 days ago, over a child welfare scandal, has likely spurred protesters:

"We now have a caretaker government and the political debate is heating up, going into elections in March. There is more restlessness and people are disappointed that things are taking very long, that the coronavirus is not going away and that the Netherlands is doing very badly with vaccines."

By mid-week, Dutch authorities had vaccinated just 100,000 people.

ipj/mm (dpa, AP, AFP)