Dutch police fire left several injured in the port city of Rotterdam on Friday, where rioters protesting against sanitary measures set a police car on fire, threw stones and set off fireworks.
The incidents erupted during a protest against health restrictions and government plans to restrict access of unvaccinated people to certain sites.
Several dozen people were arrested and at least seven people were injured, including police officers, in an outbreak of nighttime violence on one of Rotterdam’s main shopping streets.
The Netherlands were the first in Western Europe to reintroduce partial containment last week with a series of health restrictions, notably affecting the restaurant sector, to cope with an outbreak of Covid-19 cases.
“Warning shots were fired several times. At one point the situation became so dangerous that officers felt compelled to shoot at targets.”, police said. Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb called the incidents an “orgy of violence”.
The demonstration, which began at 8:00 p.m. (7:00 p.m. GMT) in the city center “led to riots. Fires were set in several places. Fireworks were set off and police fired several shots. summons, ”Rotterdam police said in a statement.
The riot police repeatedly pushed back the demonstrators, including deploying a water cannon, the same source said.
“There are injuries linked to the shots fired” she added, without giving a number. Dutch public television NOS claimed for its part that two people were injured by the shots.
Several hundred demonstrators shouted slogans including “freedom”, threw stones at police and firefighters and set several electric scooters on fire, local media reported.
Images shared on social media showed a burning police car, a spokesperson also confirmed to AFP.
‘Very serious’ situation
The situation had largely calmed down thereafter, but the smoldering wreckage of a burned-out police car and dozens of broken bicycles littered the scene, an AFP journalist observed. Riot police carrying shields and batons were leading groups of people away from the area.
Police also cordoned off several places to search for evidence, with a human finger visible on the ground on one of them, the AFP correspondent said. Dutch police said units from across the country had been mobilized to “restore order” in Rotterdam.
“Dozens of arrests have now been made, it is expected that other arrests will follow. About seven people were injured, including on the side of the police,” indicates a police statement.
Describing a “very serious” situation, local authorities banned gatherings in the area in order to prevent further violence.
Like much of the rest of Europe, the Netherlands has seen a surge in Covid cases in recent days, with more than 21,000 new infections reported on Friday.
The latest restrictions, announced on November 12, sparked clashes between protesters and police outside the Justice Ministry in The Hague. In January, the Netherlands experienced its worst riots in four decades, including in Rotterdam, after a curfew went into effect.
Several thousand people are expected to attend protests in Amsterdam and the southern city of Breda on Saturday, local media say.
The Dutch government is also considering restricting access to dining and leisure places after the three-week period to only people vaccinated or cured of Covid.
But the highly controversial measure met with significant opposition during a debate in parliament this week. Similar steps have already been taken in neighboring Germany, as Austria prepares to completely reconfigure its population on Monday.