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Defiant Dutch churchgoers attack journalists

March 28, 2021

Worshippers flouting pandemic measures in the Netherlands have responded to media attention with violence. Lawmakers have slammed the attacks on reporters.

Worshippers entering the Mieraskerk church in Krimpen aan den Ijssel
Some churches in the Netherlands have disregarded coronavirus measures and opened for full congregationsImage: Robin Utrecht/picture alliance

Police in the Netherlands arrested a man after he hit and kicked a journalist outside a Protestant church that had opened for a full congregation on Sunday despite the country's strict lockdown.

Reporters showed up at the Mieraskerk church in the town of Krimpen aan den Ijssel near the city of Rotterdam.

The church made headlines after reports that it was going ahead with a service for its entire congregation. The Netherlands is under a strict lockdown and has a rising COVID-19 rate.

The journalist Jacco van Giessen shared a video of the incident on Twitter, writing that "the pain has gone but I am still shocked — I was attacked during my work this morning by a churchgoer in Krimpen."

The 43-year-old man accused of the attack was escorted out of the church during the service and arrested.

Dutch anti-lockdown protests

Not an isolated event

Worshippers at the Sion church in the town of Urk, northeast of Amsterdam, also reportedly attacked journalists at a service that took place without observing any protective measures.

A churchgoer deliberately hit a TV cameraman outside the church with his car, the German news agency dpa reported.

The journalists involved in the attacks were reportedly only slightly injured.

Reporters were also targeted with violence during anti-curfew riots earlier in the year.

Dutch bar and shop owners defy lockdown

Outrage over attacks on journalists

Several Dutch lawmakers from different political parties reacted with anger to the reports of violence and disregard for lockdown measures.

"Independent journalism is necessary for a democratic constitutional state," Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus said.

"Let journalists do their job," tweeted Lilianne Ploumen, the leader of the Social Democrats. Dutch police shared a similar message on Twitter.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte had already criticized the decision by the churches to hold in-person services during the lockdown.

The Dutch constitution prohibits the government from banning religious communities from gathering, but most have gone along with lockdown measures and allowed only a maximum of 30 people to take part in services.

ab/nm (dpa, AP)