‘Violent battleground’: Dutch police opened fire on the COVID-19 riot group
THE HAGUE, Netherland – Police opened fire on protesters and seven people were injured during riots that broke out in downtown Rotterdam around a protest against COVID-19 restrictions. The mayor of the Dutch city called it “a riot”.
Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb told reporters in the early hours of Saturday morning that “in some cases, police felt the need to draw their weapons in self-defence” as rioters raced through the central shopping district. of the port city, setting fires and hurling stones and fireworks at officers.
“They shot at the protesters, people got hurt,” Aboutaleb said. He has no details about the injuries. Police also fired warning shots.
Several police officers were also injured in the violence and officers arrested dozens of people and are expected to make more arrests after studying CCTV footage, Aboutaleb said.
Photographs from the scene showed at least one police vehicle on fire and another bicycle crashing through the windshield.
Riot police and water cannons restored calm after midnight.
It is one of the worst outbreaks of violence in the Netherlands since coronavirus restrictions were first introduced last year. In January, rioters also attacked police and set fires on the streets of Rotterdam after the curfew went into effect.
Justice Minister Ferd Grapperhaus condemned the events.
“The riots and extreme violence against police officers, riot police and firefighters last night in Rotterdam were disgusting,” he said in a statement.
“Protesting is a great right in our society, but what we saw last night was simply criminal behavior. It has nothing to do with protest,” he added.
Police units from around the country rushed to Rotterdam to help control the situation Friday night. Local media reported that football gangs were involved in the riot.
Video from social media shown on Dutch television station NOS showed one person being shot in Rotterdam, but there was no immediate information on what happened.
Police said in a tweet that they were “still unclear how and by whom” the person was apparently shot.
An independent investigation into the police shooting has been opened, as well as the Dutch police use of their weapons.
The government has said it wants to introduce a law that would allow businesses to restrict the country’s coronavirus transmission system to only people who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 – this would exclude people have negative test results.
The country has seen a record number of infections in recent days and a new partial ban went into effect a week ago.
Local political party Leefbaar Rotterdam condemned the violence in a tweet.
“The center of our beautiful city this evening has turned into a war zone,” it said. “Rotterdam is a city where you can disagree with things happening but violence is never, never, the solution.”