Netherlands anti-curfew protests spark clashes with police, looting
Protests against a new curfew to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the Netherlands degenerated into clashes with police in some places on Sunday, authorities and reports said.
Authorities used water cannon and dogs in a square in central Amsterdam, where hundreds of protesters gathered over the curfew that began Saturday, public television NOS reported.
In Eindhoven in the country’s south, police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd of several hundred, regional television Omroep Brabant reported. At least 30 people were arrested there, police said.
A number of vehicles were burned and businesses at Eindhoven’s central train station were looted, media reports said.
Dutch rail company NS called on travellers to avoid the Eindhoven station, where it said train circulation was interrupted due to the intervention of emergency services nearby.
A Covid-19 testing centre was also set on fire on Saturday evening in the village of Urk in the north of the country, local authorities said.
“The fire in a screening centre in Urk goes beyond all limits,” Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said on Sunday.
The 9 pm to 4:30 am curfew is the country’s first since World War II, with Prime Minister Mark Rutte saying it is needed to bring down virus case numbers. Violators face a 95-euro ($115) fine.
Exemptions are possible, in particular for people returning from funerals or those having to work, but on condition that they present a certificate.
– ‘Careless’ –
Rutte also announced on Wednesday a ban on flights from Britain, South Africa and South America, and a cut in the number of guests allowed in people’s homes to one, from the previous limit of two.
New variants of the virus have led to deep concern in Europe, particularly a more infectious strain that first emerged in Britain.
The Netherlands was already under its toughest measures since the start of the pandemic, with bars and restaurants having closed in October, and schools and non-essential shops shut since December.
Dutch lawmakers on Thursday approved Rutte’s curfew plan, though on condition that it begin half an hour later than the original 8:30 pm start time.
The move had faced criticism led by far-right politician Geert Wilders, who called it “careless” and “disproportionate”.
“I stand here for freedom. I lost it myself,” said Wilders, who has for years been under round-the-clock security after receiving death threats.
“I do not accept that we unnecessarily… introduce curfews while there are alternatives.”
Rutte and his cabinet resigned on January 22 over a scandal involving child tax benefits, but they will continue to govern until elections in mid-March.