Fresh Covid demos in riot-hit Netherlands

Dutch coronavirus demonstrators held fresh rallies on Saturday, a day after 51 people were arrested in an “orgy of violence” in Rotterdam that left two people in hospital with bullet wounds.

The Netherlands went back into Western Europe’s first partial lockdown of the winter last Saturday with at least three weeks of curbs, and is now planning to ban unvaccinated people from entering some venues.

A few hundred protesters angered at the latest measures gathered in Amsterdam on Saturday and a similar number marched through the southern city of Breda.

It followed the Rotterdam unrest where police said they had fired both warning and targeted shots and used water cannon.

“Fifty-one people were arrested during the major disturbances on Friday evening and night on Coolsingel (street) in Rotterdam . About half of them were just underage,” Rotterdam police said in a tweet.

The rioters came from different parts of the country, they said. Police were still searching for more suspects.

“Two rioters were injured when they were hit by a bullet. They are still in the hospital,” the police said, adding that the Dutch national criminal investigation department would probe “whether the injuries were caused by police bullets”.

A policeman was also taken to hospital with leg injuries while several other officers were hurt or suffered hearing damage because of large fireworks set off by the rioters, police said.

Police had said earlier that they fired several warning shots but that “at one point the situation became so dangerous that officers felt compelled to shoot at targets”.

They dismissed rumours on social media that someone had died during the violence in Rotterdam.

The city’s mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb denounced an “orgy of violence”, adding: “The police have felt the need to draw a police weapon in the end to defend themselves.”

– ‘All hell broke loose’ –

Despite the violence a day earlier, around 300 protesters marched through the southern town of Breda near the Belgian border on Saturday carrying banners with slogans such as “No Lockdown”.

Organisers said they opposed Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s plans to exclude the unvaccinated from bars and restaurants.

A group that had called an Amsterdam protest for Saturday, United We Stand Europe, said on Facebook it had cancelled the rally because “last night, all hell broke loose in Rotterdam”.

But several hundred flag-waving protesters still gathered in central Dam Square, watched over by police vans, according to Dutch media and images on social media.

The Dutch government condemned the violence in Rotterdam.

“The riots and extreme violence against police, riot police and firefighters last night in Rotterdam are horrifying,” security minister Ferd Grapperhaus said on Saturday.

“The police and the public prosecutor’s office are doing their utmost to track down, prosecute and punish these rioters.”

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