Dutch govt won’t bow to rioters: ministers

Published January 27, 2021
ROTTERDAM: A man stands near a damaged container on Tuesday after police clashed with rioters protesting against a curfew overnight.—AFP
ROTTERDAM: A man stands near a damaged container on Tuesday after police clashed with rioters protesting against a curfew overnight.—AFP

THE HAGUE: The Dutch government will not back down on its coronavirus curfew despite three nights of rioting by “scum”, ministers said on Tuesday after the worst unrest to hit the Netherlands for four decades.

Dutch police arrested a further 184 people overnight, taking past 400 the number detained after the Netherlands imposed its first nationwide curfew since World War II.

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

Several cities granted police extra powers amid reports that fresh protests were being organised on social media for Tuesday night against the 9pm to 4:30am curfew.

“You don’t capitulate to people who smash shop windows,” Finance Minister Wopke Hoekstra told ANP national news agency. “Scum does this,” and not genuine protesters, he added.

Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus also said the government would keep the curfew in place. It is meant to last until at least until February 9 in what the government says is a vital step to bring down Covid-19 cases.

Police unions called it the worst rioting in four decades, referring to clashes with squatters in the 1980s as they were evicted from illegally-occupied buildings.

Dutch police chief Henk van Essen condemned the violence, saying “it has nothing to do any longer with the right to demonstrate”.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Twitter that “criminal violence has to stop”.

The government announced the curfew last week and it was supported by a majority of MPs.

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

The protests began on a small scale on Saturday night, with a single riot in the northern village of Urk in the conservative protestant “Bible Belt”.

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.

Police used water cannon again in Rotterdam on Monday night. As the clean-up operation started, mayors of several cities reacted with anger. Rotterdam’s Ahmed Aboutaleb called rioters “shameless thieves”, the NOS national broadcaster reported.

“Does it feel good to wake up this morning with a suitcase full of stolen goods next to you?” he asked rioters in an online message.

The country 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 13,600 people have died in the Netherlands since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2021

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