Riots in Holland raged for three nights due to the general public chafing under Covid-19 restrictions as Dutch caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Monday condemned rioters, calling them “idiots,” and promising that they would be brought to justice.
There were violent protests in Rotterdam and other places across the Netherlands over the weekend as unease grew over the rules that were instituted in an attempt to limit the spikes in the coronavirus.
Rutte made his comments after protests devolved into violence, with fires set in the middle of streets in The Hague.
Riots in Holland “Nothing to do with demonstrating”
“I realize that there are a lot of tensions in society because we have been dealing with all the misery of coronavirus for so long,” Rutte stated to the nation, adding however that what had taken place in Holland had “nothing to do with demonstrating. This is a pure explosion of violence directed against our police, against our firefighters, against ambulance drivers.”
Police arrested a total of seven rioters in The Hague on Saturday after young rioters set fires and then threw fireworks at the authorities; five officers were injured and one needed treatment in a hospital.
That came one day after Dutch police fired on protesters in Rotterdam in the middle of a chaotic scene as part of what the mayor called “an orgy of violence” that had begun as a demonstration against coronavirus measures.
Two football matches in the first-tier professional league were halted for a time after fans, who had been banned from matches under a partial week-long lockdown, broke into stadiums in Alkmaar and Almelo.
However, peaceful protests also took place on Saturday, in the capital city Amsterdam and the southern city of Breda.
A new partial lockdown was instituted last week in the Netherlands; at the same time, authorities there banned the lighting of fireworks on New Year’s Eve in hopes that the measure would ease the burden on hospitals as the virus strains capacities to their limits.
The local media outlet Regio 15 reported that rioters were throwing bicycles, wooden pallets and motorized scooters on one of the fires in The Hague.
However, the unrest that occurred there was on a smaller scale than in Rotterdam on Friday night, when police reports said that three rioters had been struck by bullets. It is still unclear who exactly it was who shot them and there is no information on what their conditions are at present.
There is already an independent investigation into the shootings by police as part of the riots in Holland, according to the protocol followed whenever Dutch police use their weapons in any action.
So far, 51 people were arrested for their parts in the Friday night riots; about half of them are minors, according to the police said. Officials state that one police officer was hospitalized with a leg injury from the riots, another was treated by ambulance staff and “countless” others suffered minor injuries in the melee.
Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb told reporters early Saturday morning that “on a number of occasions the police felt it necessary to draw their weapons to defend themselves” when rioters ran through the city’s central district, setting fires and throwing rocks and fireworks at the police.
“They shot at protesters, people were injured,” Aboutaleb admitted. He stated that the police also fired “warning shots.”
As time goes on, the authorities will make more arrests as they scan video footage of the riots.
At least one police car was in flames and another had a bicycle slammed through its windshield on Friday night.
The violence comes after the Dutch government stated it intends to introduce a law that would allow businesses to restrict entry to only those who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19.
This measure, similar to those instituted in Greece, which took effect on Monday, would exclude people who test negative for the virus.
Like everywhere else in Europe, Holland has experienced record numbers of Covid-19 infections in recent days and a new partial lockdown came into force a week ago.