Some 240 people were arrested, mostly in Amsterdam, after riots broke out in at least 10 cities across the Netherlands on Sunday evening. On Saturday night was the first curfew in the Netherlands since the end of World War II, and police arrested scores of young foreign men and handed out 3 600 fines for curfew violations.
In Amsterdam and Eindhoven, protesters ignored anti-Coronavirus measures and turned up to demonstrate even though all gatherings had been banned. Gangs of youths began attacking police in several other cities, including Tilburg and Enschede as the 9pm curfew approached.
Youths even threw rocks at the local hospital in Enschede. When the mob arrived at the hospital, an attempt was made to break the windows. They pelted the building and kicked the doors. Authorities were forced to call in extra security. “It is terrible that we are now targeted. The very people who have worked so hard during this Corona crisis,” said a spokesman for MST.
In Tilburg there were at least 19 arrests and it took until around midnight to restore order. Tilburg mayor Theo Weterings said the rioting was “absolutely reprehensible”. He said struggling businesses were targeted. “Shops which are already struggling were vandalised. Throwing stones and fireworks is outrageous.”
Although the protests were ostensibly to protest about the curfew and other Coronavirus measures, commentators said many of those who showed up appeared to be young immigrant men causing trouble. Tilburg, Breda and Venlo issued emergency decrees, giving police more power to restore public order.
Around 8:40 pm, the rioters moved into the residential area of Tilburg, but angry local residents chased them away, after which they moved on to the Westermarkt. According to a witness, the atmosphere around the area where the group is protesting was “grim”. A group of about sixty young men had gone on a rampage. They destroyed everything in their way, pulling road signs out of the ground, setting off heavy illegal fireworks and throwing rocks through windows and at bystanders. They littered the streets of surrounding access roads with traffic signs, wheelie bicycles, bicycles, and everything else that was available.
A reporter of the Brabants Dagblad filming this destruction had to flee for his life after being pelted with rocks and then surrounded and trapped by the mob. While trying to flee, he ducked into a firebreak, where he was surrounded by a group of about 15 men. He was able to bring himself to safety through a garden of an adjacent house.
Georgette van Loon, daughter of the owner of the store New Vulto, was watching a livestream about the riots at home when she received a message from the glass exchange about their store being attacked. “This is awful. It’s no longer about Corona, but about sensation and destructiveness.
“This is not demonstrating, I would call these people Corona hooligans,” Hubert Bruls, chairman of the regional safety board association told television chat show Op1.
Riot police were also called in to The Hague’s Schilderswijk district – a Muslim area of some 5 000 people around the El Islam mosque– after fires were started. It is known locally as “the Sharia triangle”, because it is being run by unofficial Sharia police. Locals complain that is has become “orthodox Muslim territory”. A police officer was filmed fleeing from a mob, according to public television NOS.
Despite this, Jesse Klaver from the far-left environmental party GroenLinks blamed Geert Wilders for the curfew riots. Wilders had previously distanced himself from riots. According to Klaver, the PVV and Thierry Baudet’s FvD “wrote the playbook for these Donald Trump-like riots”.
In Helmond around 50 youngsters who spoke with a foreign accent, gathered together after a call to demonstrate on Snapchat. ‘There were around 50 youngsters, who threw stones and fireworks at police,” a police spokesman told broadcaster NOS. In Venlo too, a group of mainly young foreigners threw rocks at police and broke shop windows, and there were also serious disturbances in Roermond.
Police were also called in to deal with rioters in Oosterhout, Almelo, Venlo, Helmond, Breda, Arnhem and Apeldoorn, broadcasters RTL and NOS said.
Around 190 people were arrested in Amsterdam and at least 30 in Eindhoven. In Eindhoven, police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse a crowd of several hundred people on the 18 Septemberplein. Train services to and from Eindhoven were also disrupted and station shops plundered as mobs went on the rampage.
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 did not have a record of any injured persons.
The Dutch Police Union (NPB) believes the unrest will continue for “days or weeks”. Police union director Koen Simmers told Nieuwsuur: “I hope it was a unique case, but I’m afraid it is a harbinger for the days and weeks to come.” Riot police officers were beaten up in Eindhoven, according to Simmers. The police had predicted that there would be unrest. “There was a lot of information and that’s why there were so many agents in Amsterdam and Eindhoven”, according to the trade unionist, “It is not normal to attack police officers with lethal weapons,” he added.
“I think if we go down this path we are heading for a civil war,” Eindhoven Mayor John Jorritsma said on Sunday before several television cameras, calling those present at the gathering “the dregs of society” and suggesting the need for military intervention.
In Amsterdam several hundred people went to the Museumplein to protest about the curfew despite warnings to stay away. Police had to use water cannons and dogs to break up the crowd and the skirmishes continued well into the night.
Amsterdam city hall said in a statement on Sunday the number of demonstrators in the capital was estimated 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. “The people who came down there come from partly well-known groups, such as political movements or hooligans, but there are also very angry people among them,” according to Amsterdam Police Chief Frank Paauw.
Riot police were also called out to deal with anti-curfew protests in Urk and in Stein in Limburg.
The Netherlands has been in lockdown since mid December, when schools and non-essential shops were closed. Bars and restaurants were closed in October when the second wave of Coronavirus infections began.
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