The Hague, Jan 25 (efe-epa).- Acting Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte on Monday condemned the “criminal violence” that erupted during anti-lockdown protests over the weekend.
Several demonstrations against the new curfew in the Netherlands, the first policy to restrict movement in the country since the pandemic began, turned into pitched battles between young protesters.
The new curfew, effective as of Saturday, is to be in place between 9 pm and 4.30 am each night.
Although the curfew does affect Dutch social life heavily, given all non-essential business is closed, it is the first time the prime minister decided to restrict social freedoms following a policy of relying on the “responsibility” of the public.
The country awoke Monday to scenes of destruction, broken windows littering streets, businesses looted and cars burnt out. Protesters set fire to a PCR testing checkpoint. Police resorted to water cannons, dogs, horses, batons and tear gas in a bid to clear the crowds.
Over 300 people are thought to have been arrested up and down the country.
Koen Simmers, the heads of the Dutch police union NPB, told Nieuwsuur: “I hope it was a one-off, but I’m afraid it was a harbinger for the coming days and weeks.”
Rutte, who is the acting prime minister until elections in March, said the violence over the weekend was “inadmissible” and “criminal.”
“We are fighting against the virus to recover our normal freedoms. The curfew continues to be necessary. We are not applying these measures for fun,” he said.
Simmers said levels of violence witnessed this week had not been seen for 40 years in the Netherlands.
Some of the worst of the violence was seen in Eindhoven, where riot police tried to clear demonstrators with water cannons and later tear gas. Protesters launched stones at police and set fire to vehicles.
John Jorritsma, the mayor of Eindhoven, went as far as to say the country was headed for “civil war.”
Violent protests also occurred in Amsterdam, where over 200 were detained. EFE-EPA