Anti-coronavirus protests and riots across the Netherlands
Anti-coronavirus protests and riots across the Netherlands
As the national coronavirus curfew came into effect on Saturday, protests and violent riots broke out across the Netherlands. Rioters targeted a hospital in Enschede and set fire to a GGD test site in Urk. Hundreds of people were arrested.
January 23 marks first night of curfew
The national curfew came into effect at 9pm on January 23. The first night saw the police issue over 3.600 95-euro fines for violations of the curfew. 25 people were arrested. However, the police did note that, of the people who were stopped and checked during curfew hours, 80 percent carried the necessary government forms.
On Monday, the Dutch Security Council - made up of the 25 mayors who chair security regions - will meet in Utrecht in order to discuss how the curfew will be enforced over the coming weeks.
Riots and protests in at least 10 Dutch municipalities
The Dutch police faced riots and anti-coronavirus demonstrations in cities and towns across the Netherlands over the weekend. The Dutch Police Association has said they fear that the national unrest will continue for “days or weeks”: “I hope it was a one-off, but I'm afraid it was a harbinger for the coming days and weeks,” said Koen Simmers, chief of police.
After Saturday night, the police in Amsterdam said that, while “many” fines had been issued, they were “happy about how Amsterdammers had behaved.” However, this feeling was likely short-lived as, for the second week in a row, protestors and rioters then descended on the city. From 11am on Sunday, mayor Femke Halsema designated Museumplein as a risk area, allowing the police to carry out preventative searches.
Riot police were once again on the scene with horses and water cannons to clear the area. Around 1.500 people were in attendance, protesting against the coronavirus measures. Protestors let off fireworks and pelted police with rocks. 190 arrests were made.
Rioters in Eindhoven caused widespread destruction over the course of Sunday, setting cars and bicycles alight, smashing the windows of shops and businesses, and destroying the piano and looting the Jumbo supermarket at Eindhoven station. The violence commenced after the police had put an end to an illegal anti-coronavirus protest in the city. They were ultimately forced to use tear gas to dispel rioters.
Trains in and around Eindhoven were halted by NS. Eindhoven mayor, John Jorritsma, told the press on Sunday evening that he feared the country was heading towards civil war: “[The protestors] talk about freedom and dictatorship, but in the meantime they are demolishing the shops and the station here, setting cars on fire... I don't know what types these are, but they don't belong in the Netherlands.” According to police, a total of 55 arrests were made, but they hope to detain more following a review of video footage of the riot.
A hospital in Enschede was attacked on Sunday night, as rioters attempted to break the windows of the emergency department and threw fireworks at the building. The local police and a spokesperson for MST Hospital confirmed that rioters failed to break any windows and that the building suffered no damage.
The hospital deployed additional security in order to protect its staff. “It is terrible that we are now targeted,” a spokesperson for the hospital told the press. “These are precisely the people who have worked so hard during this coronavirus crisis.”
Urk and Stein
The unrest in Urk started on Saturday night, as rioters set fire to a GGD coronavirus test location and attacked a team of NOS journalists. In Stein on Saturday night, around 100 people gathered in the town centre at 9pm and refused to leave. Police say the group was drinking and playing loud music. 14 people were arrested.
Following the events of Saturday night, the two municipalities introduced additional measures in order to keep the peace. Urk said it would deploy more police to enforce curfew while the mayor of Stein announced an emergency preventive ordinance which will remain in place until February 1.
The Hague, Roermond and Tilburg
Riot police intervened in a number of other cities and municipalities across the Netherlands, with reports suggesting that it wasn’t until 1am on Monday morning that the unrest seemed to come to an end. Police were attacked with fireworks in The Hague as rioters set scooters, bicycles, and cars on fire.
A clothing store in Tilburg was destroyed by a firework bomb, and a total of 19 people were arrested. A police officer was injured in Venlo after a rioter threw a rock through the window of a police car. The Royal Netherlands Marechaussee was deployed to support police in Roermond after rioters caused destruction in a shopping centre. Unrest was also reported in Breda, Helmond, Apeldoorn, Oosterhout, Arnhem, and Almelo.
Dutch government reacts to riots
Politicians and mayors across the Netherlands have expressed shock and outrage at the actions of rioters over the weekend. Speaking to journalists on Monday morning, Acting Prime Minister Mark Rutte condemned the “criminal violence” which “has nothing to do with fighting for freedom.” He emphasised that 99 percent of the public do respect and adhere to the coronavirus measures, and expressed respect and gratitude for mayors, the police, and journalists.
The Dutch Minister of Justice, Ferdinand Grapperhaus, issued a statement on Sunday in which he also condemned the violent behaviour of rioters: “Shocking images of riots, looting and arson are circulating. This has nothing to do with demonstrating against coronavirus measures. This is simply criminal behaviour; people who consciously target (riot) police, journalists and other aid workers.” Hubert Bruls, mayor of Nijmegen and chairman of the Security Council, called the behaviour “terrible”: "This is not a demonstration, I would call these [people] corona hooligans."
GroenLinks party leader, Jesse Klaver, called the events of the weekend “unacceptable” and accused political parties Forum for Democracy (FVD) and Party for Freedom (PVV) of encouraging this kind of violent behaviour. Meanwhile, FvD blamed Rutte’s harsh measures for bringing about these riots: “Forum continues to resist. We continue to reflect every day on this unacceptable restriction of our freedom," the party tweeted.