Police use a water cannon during a protest against restrictions put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, on Sunday, January 24. (Reuters/Eva Plevier photo)
AMSTERDAM–Dutch police used water cannons, dogs and mounted police on Sunday to disperse a protest in central Amsterdam against COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, and detained more than 100 people for throwing stones and fireworks.
The demonstration in the Dutch capital’s Museum Square, which violated a ban on public gatherings, came the day after the government introduced a nightly curfew for the first time since World War II.
Protesters, organised in part by restaurant owners fed up with the Netherlands’ long-lasting lockdown measures, carried a banner saying, “Stop The Lockdown”.
Fearing a riot or a disease-spreading event, Mayor Femke Halsema had designated the square as a “high-risk zone” and gave police the power to pre-emptively frisk people for weapons. It was the same square where 143 people were arrested during similar protests a week ago.
Police cleared the square after people ignored instructions to leave and detained those who attacked them with stones and fireworks in nearby streets, the mayor’s office said.
Police in Eindhoven, Noord-Brabant, also used a water cannon and tear gas against a crowd of hundreds of demonstrators, including supporters of the anti-immigrant group Pegida.
Eindhoven police said they had made at least 30 arrests by late afternoon and warned people to stay away from the city centre amid the clashes. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
Parliament voted narrowly last week to approve the curfew, swayed by assertions that a variant of COVID-19 first identified in Britain was about to cause a new surge in cases. New infections in the country have generally been declining for a month, and fell again on Sunday, to 4,924 new cases.
On Saturday night, police had arrested 25 people across the country and handed out 3,600 fines for curfew violations. Police said those who were arrested had refused to go home or had committed acts of violence.
A group of youths in the fishing village of Urk in the province Flevoland threw fireworks and rocks at police and burned down a temporary COVID-19 testing centre.
Exceptions to the curfew, which runs through February 9, include medical emergencies, people performing essential jobs and people walking their dogs. Violators can be fined 95 euros or US $115.
Schools and non-essential stores in the Netherlands have been shut since mid-December 2020, following the closure of bars and restaurants two months earlier.
The Netherlands was the last country in the European Union to begin vaccinations and has so far vaccinated a total of 77,000 doctors and nurses in a country of almost 18 million people.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/police-detain-100-in-amsterdam-after-lockdown-curfew-protest