COVID-19: clashes with police on the sidelines of anti-curfew protests in the Netherlands

The Hague | Clashes with the police and looting broke out on Sunday in several cities in the Netherlands on the sidelines of protests against the curfew in place since Saturday to fight the COVID-19 epidemic, according to Dutch media and local authorities.

• Read also: All developments in the COVID-19 pandemic

Incidents have been reported in particular in Amsterdam, Eindhoven, The Hague, Breda, Arnhem, Tilburg, Enschede, Appeldoorn, Venlo and Ruremond.

A water cannon and police dogs were deployed to Museumplein, a square in central Amsterdam, to disperse hundreds of protesters, according to public television NOS.

At least 100 people were arrested on the sidelines of the rally, Amsterdam City Hall said in a statement Sunday, which estimates the number of protesters in the capital on Sunday at around 1,500.

According to local AT5 television, security has been stepped up around the official residence of Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema, as the area has been cordoned off with a police cordon.

In The Hague, in the district of Schilderswijk, several fires were reported and a police officer was filmed fleeing in front of a group of people gathered, according to public television NOS.

In Eindhoven, in the south of the country, law enforcement officials used tear gas to disperse a crowd of several hundred people, according to regional television Omroep Brabant.

Several vehicles were set on fire and businesses in Eindhoven Central Station were looted, according to Omroep Brabant.

“At least thirty people have been arrested,” Eindhoven police told AFP, saying they had no record of any injured.

“I think that if we go down this path, we are heading towards a civil war,” Eindhoven Mayor John Jorritsma said on Sunday in front of television cameras, calling those present at the gathering “the dregs of society” and suggesting the need for army intervention.

A COVID-19 testing center was also set on fire in the northern village of Urk on Saturday evening as the government-imposed national curfew went into effect, local authorities said.

“The fire at a testing center in Urk goes beyond all limits,” Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said on Sunday.

The Netherlands began its first curfew since World War II on Saturday. It is forbidden to leave your home between 9 p.m. and 4:30 a.m., at least until February 9.

Any offender incurs a fine of 95 euros.

Certain exemptions are possible, in particular for people returning from funerals or those having to work during the curfew, provided that they present a travel certificate.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Wednesday the decision to impose a curfew was bolstered by the spread of the British variant of the coronavirus.

According to Mr. Rutte, the curfew must avoid containment, while since the start of the health crisis, the Dutch have never had to justify their movements.

In addition to raising opposition from some MPs, including far-right leader Geert Wilders, the curfew has angered sections of the population.

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