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World

Dutch police arrest nearly 200 in new curfew riots

  • Dutch police chief Henk van Essen strongly condemned the rioters, saying "it has nothing to do any longer with the right to demonstrate."
Published January 26, 2021

THE HAGUE: Dutch police arrested at least 184 rioters after protests against a coronavirus curfew turned violent for a third night, police said Tuesday, in the worst unrest to hit the Netherlands in four decades.

At least 10 police officers were injured in the latest clashes, which left a trail of looted shops and burned cars in cities including Rotterdam, Amsterdam and The Hague on Monday night.

While a majority of Dutch people have peacefully observed the country's first curfew since World War II, the riots have spread since the 9:00pm to 4:30am restriction came into effect on Saturday.

"We can confirm that at least 184 arrests were made," police spokesman Sherlo Esajas told AFP. Police added that more arrests could follow.

Dutch police chief Henk van Essen strongly condemned the rioters, saying "it has nothing to do any longer with the right to demonstrate."

"I have respect for those colleagues who have a hard time the past few nights," Van Essen said on Twitter.

Police unions said it was the worst rioting in four decades, referring to clashes between law officials and squatters in the 1980s as they were evicted from illegally-occupied buildings.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Monday condemned the riots, saying they were "unacceptable" and that normal people regarded it "with horror."

Clean-up operations started for a second day in many city centres across the country including in the port city of Rotterdam and Den Bosch to the south, where images showed shops being looted by mobs of rioters.

Police used water cannon against rioters in Rotterdam.

Mayors of several cities reacted with anger, with Rotterdam's Ahmed Aboutaleb calling rioters "shameless thieves," the NOS national newscaster reported.

The protests began on a small scale on Saturday night, with a single riot in the northern village of Urk on Saturday in the conservative protestant Dutch "Bible Belt" during which a coronavirus testing centre was burned down.

But on Sunday they spread, with police using water cannon, tear gas and horses against rioters in the southern city of Eindhoven and in Amsterdam.

The Dutch government announced the curfew last week in order to further bring down numbers of infections, and to curb outbreaks of new variants of Covid-19.

Rutte said he had not wanted to put the liberal Netherlands under curfew but had no choice.

The decision was supported by a majority of MPs in the Dutch parliament although there was some strong opposition, particularly from the far-right.

Exemptions are allowed, for example for people having to work, attend funerals or walk their dogs, on condition that they present a certificate.

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.

More than 13,500 people have died in the Netherlands since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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