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Dutch officials defend police for shooting at Covid protesters

The mayor of Rotterdam defended the city’s police force after officers opened fire on protesters as riots broke out during a protest against new restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19, At least 7 people were injured.

More than 20 people were arrested on Friday night as protesters hurled stones at police and set fires in the Dutch city to show their displeasure over new measures that would restrict access to sites. , including restaurants and shops for the unvaccinated, booked for at least three weeks.

Ahmed Aboutaleb, mayor of Rotterdam, blamed protesters for a “storm of violence” as he justified the use of force to contain the situation.

“The police were forced to withdraw their weapons and even shoot directly,” Aboutaleb told reporters, adding that several officers had been injured and more arrests were expected after the division. security footage.

Ferd Grapperhaus, the Dutch justice minister, said the “extreme violence” against police and firefighters in the port city was abhorrent.

“The right to protest is very important in our society but what we saw last night was simply criminal behaviour,” he added.

Police say the protests have turned into riots. “Fires have been set up in several places. Fireworks were lit and police fired several warning shots.”

A police car was put on fire during the riots in Rotterdam © ANP / AFP via Getty Images

Local authorities say police units from across the Netherlands have been deployed to Rotterdam to restore order as they declared a state of emergency banning people from gathering in the rioting area.

Following scenes of violence in Rotterdam, organizers of a protest planned in Amsterdam on Saturday said they had canceled the event. But another protest in the southern city of Breda against current measures to limit the spread of the virus, including the closure of bars, restaurants and clubs at 8pm, has conducted.

This is not the first outbreak of violence in the Netherlands due to coronavirus restrictions. In January, rioters and police clashed on the streets of Rotterdam after the curfew went into effect.

Many European countries are reinstating draconian restrictive measures, to combat the spread of the coronavirus as it continues to threaten to overwhelm health systems despite vaccination campaigns.

Thousands of protesters gathered in Vienna after the Austrian government announced a complete shutdown and mandatory use of vaccines. Germany has denied containment but Jens Spahn, health minister, said of “a national emergency that requires a combined national effort”.

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