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Netherlands: Another night of riots over coronavirus curfew

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The Netherlands experienced another night of unrest heading into Tuesday after protesters opposing a coronavirus curfew confronted police and threw fireworks.      

Riot police clashed with groups of protesters in Amsterdam as well as the port city of Rotterdam, Amersfoort in the east, and the small southern city of Geleen near Maastricht, police and Dutch news reports said.

Amsterdam police said they had made eight arrests.

In Rotterdam, police used a water cannon after clashing with rioters, the national broadcaster NOS reported. The city’s mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb has issued an emergency decree which gives police broader powers of arrest. “The riot police have carried out charges and arrests have been made,” Rotterdam’s city council said in a tweet. “There is an urgent request to all to leave the area,” the council added.

A vehicle has been set on fire after a group of young people has sought confrontation with the police in Rotterdam

The motivation behind Monday’s incidents was not immediately clear, but rioters were overwhelmingly in their teens and twenties.

‘Worst rioting in 40 years’

It was the second night of unrest in towns and cities across the Netherlands that initially grew out of calls to protest against the country’s tough lockdown, but degenerated into vandalism by crowds whipped up by messages swirling on social media.

Dutch media reported calls on social media for further violent protests even as the country struggles to contain new coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

The Netherlands has seen more than 950,000 COVID infections and over 13,600 confirmed virus deaths so far.

The curfew, the first in the country since World War II, was imposed after the National Institute for Health (RIVM) warned a new wave of infections was on its way owing to the risk posed by new and more infectious variants, though numbers of new infections in the Netherlands have been declining for weeks.

Violators of the 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. curfew, which is set to last until at least February 10, face a €95 ($115) fine. Exemptions are allowed, for example for people having to work, attend funerals or walk their dogs, on condition that they present a certificate.

The Netherlands 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.

A policeman with helmet and shield holds a baton as he stands next to a police van on Beijerlandselaan in Rotterdam

Earlier, Prime Minister Mark Rutte condemned “criminal violence” which broke out Sunday, described by police officials as the “worst rioting in 40 years.”

“It’s unacceptable. All normal people will regard this with horror,” Rutte told reporters. “What motivated these people has nothing to do with protesting, it’s criminal violence and we will treat it as such.”

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